Less Stress! Enjoying the Holidays

When one suffers a lack of perspective, it said that he or she might be unable to “see the forest through the trees.”  In other words, their attention to small parts may prevent them from gaining an understanding of the whole.  It is possible to get too bogged down in details and to allow the mind to exaggerate their importance.  When it comes to the holidays, there are many of us who have a hard time seeing the bigger picture and it can lead to a great deal of stress.

By becoming too focused on smaller parts of the holiday experience, we lose track of the greater meaning of the season and create highly stressful situations.  There are some of us, for instance, who may spend hours obsessing over outdoor holiday decorations.  Are those lights right?  Is that figure in its proper place?  Etc.  It’s find to take pride in one’s holiday decorations, of course, but it is possible to become so focused on the perfect display and to become so frustrated at the process that one begins to lose track of how that one aspect of the season fits into the bigger picture.

Another example, and one to which many of us can relate, is gift shopping.  The idea of freely giving to others during the holidays should be a source of fun and joy.  Too often, however, it degrades into a trying and frustrating exercise.  The simple act of giving somehow becomes a high-pressure activity that seems to consume us.  Instead of enjoying this one component of the holidays, we allow it to consume a disproportionate amount of our attention and consideration.  Finding the “perfect gift” becomes an intense process, devoid of pleasure.

The problem, in both instances, is the same.  We lose track of the holiday forest as we become single-mindedly focused on one Christmas tree.  We begin to see each part of holiday preparation and every aspect of holiday activities as ends in and of themselves, as opposed to small means to the greater end of a pleasurable holiday.

Take a breath, relax, remember that Christmas is to be enjoyed. Try to take the 30,000 foot view!

This loss of perspective is one of the greatest causes of holiday stress.  We begin to believe that successful completion of every single holiday task or challenge is integral to having a successful Christmas.  Every single part of the equation, from wreath hanging to making an extra pie is perceived as a matter of great importance.  Not surprisingly, we find ourselves jumping from project to project in a state of high stress.  Somewhere, amidst all of those individual tasks, we lose track of the essence of the holidays completely.

If we reflect on Christmases past, we generally don’t remember the small mistakes or tiny incorrect details.  Do you remember if every strand of lights on the tree were in perfect synchronicity on your favorite past holiday?  Can you ever remember a year when the holiday dinner was completely ruined by one burned dish?  Have you ever felt a holiday was ruined by a poor gift-wrapping job?  What about those Christmas songs on the piano, out of practice or tune – so what, it was fun singing together! Generally, those smaller features—the individual trees of the Christmas forest—are far less important in building holiday memories than interactions between people.

By stepping back when we begin to feel stressed about any part of the holidays and trying to visualize the overall holiday forest, we can reduce our stress levels considerably.  A sense of perspective allows us to realize that correcting a somewhat sloppy gift-wrapping job is not the highest of our priorities or essential to a great Christmas.  By seeing the full forest instead of giving our attention to individual trees we are better able to relax, enjoy and celebrate the season. 

If you start to feel particularly stressed this holiday season, take a moment to ask yourself whether the source of your stress is really an issue of great importance.  Try to visualize your holidays as a whole instead of focusing on the single matter at hand.  Chances are that a bit of perspective will allow you to relax and enjoy the season a bit more.