It's the season to be Jolly

This is my response to the challenge #111 of the ladies of hive. I would like to answer the question about my formula for managing stress while becoming overwhelmed during the holiday season by sharing my personal experience and the changes I have brought about in my life during the last few years.

Christmas season has for many years never been a season of joy for me. Come December and I begin to stress about gifts, budget, cooking, baking, guests, decorations and the like. I am sure many of you go through similar stress during this season. I used to live in the future planning in my head all the time and this ensured that the joy of Christmas season was never mine.

Where I live we have a tradition of sending gifts and home made goodies to neighbors and friends. This means I have to bake and cook a huge amounts of goodies each year. We need to have a variety of goodies on the trays we share with our friends, family and neighbors. I used to spend a major part of the week before Christmas in the kitchen, losing sleep over these labor intensive activities.

I also loved the idea of making my own Christmas trinkets for decoration each year. Looking back I guess it was just personal pride of some sort. This obviously meant hours of extra work which was really uncalled for.

Apart from this there were Church activities, choir practice, caroling etc. This made the season of joy, a season of stress so much so I was so overwhelmed by all the preparations that I would fall seriously ill by Christmas or days after that. This was a normal happening in my life. Maybe I was a bit over enthusiastic, being a perfectionist. Nonetheless, this has always been a season of intense stress and hard work for me.

Exactly nine years ago I decided that I wouldn't do everything on a big scale. I slowly reduced the number of gifts I bought and the number of (all well to do) neighbors with whom we shared Christmas goodies. It was a tough choice to make but this reduced the stress for me from various angles. My financial stress got lighter so did the psychical work load and the psychological stress that came with having to deal with so much on my plate.

The children were still young and demanded that our home be decorated well. Every year I dropped one part of the decoration, first to go was the nativity scene we created; an elaborate affair. The next was the decorations outside our home, today we don't even bother to hang up a star or put up a fake Christmas tree in our home. The more spiritually aware we became the less we focused on the external stuff.

We used to spend a huge amounts of money on getting a new wardrobe for everyone in the family as the season meant a number of Church/social activities. I decided to stop buying stuff for myself at first. My husband joined in and in the following years the boys also fell in line. This was a major saving for our family which we decided to use for better causes, like helping the underprivileged.

The next on my list was our church/social activity. We decided to let other members in our church take over the choir and carol activities by supporting them from outside. This not only reduced the stress on us as a family but also helped others become church leaders. I also decided to accept fewer invitations for Christmas parties during this season. It was very difficult at first, but we learned to say "no" very politely.

In the last few years we have celebrated Christmas without any pomp and show. No gifts, no new wardrobe, no decorations, fewer social activities and more family time. We have enjoyed this season so much just being together as a family without all the other related stress.

As a family we have learned to think more about the needs of others rather than be focused on us and our needs. Our charity which began with saving at the home front is growing year by year. This season has become synonymous with the season of sharing and goodwill towards all men. We have understood the true joy of sharing with those who cannot return the favor. Giving without any expectations is a great lesson our boys have learned in the last few years.

The older we grow we find ourselves becoming less interested in the trappings of customs and traditions and are more inclined towards searching for the true meaning for the season. The boys too have become more mature and seem to focus less and less on material things.

Now, December has become like any other month for us. We don't find our bank balance diminishing rapidly at the end of the year like it used to years ago. The stress on every member of the family has reduced and we look forward to spending quality time together. We do have a few of special things we do together, we still do make goodies and share with our friends, but there is no compulsion on our part.

We also notice that we do not have to worry about what people would think of us, would they like our gifts or what would they think about us repeating our clothes over and over again. We live simple lives doing the things we enjoy and not being compelled by traditions and customs followed by our families for possibly decades. We are much happier for the change. Our needs have reduced and our happiness has multiplied. Less is truly more.

My tried and tested formula for reducing stress in this holiday season is to spend less. Do only what we enjoy. Share our joy with the less privileged and do good.This has brought our family much happiness over the last few years. We have bonded as family with deeper and more meaningful traditions now.

Wish you all a wonderful season of joy and sharing.

All images used in this post are mine.

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