Monday, December 16, 2013

Dealing with Holiday Stress in a Harsh World

When I asked readers what they'd like me to write about, Doug Skinner sent me the following email. (He has given me permission to reprint it.)
What's on my mind, Marty, is handling stress from the holidays. I'd love to find a place of peace and joy in a world that's pretty harsh.
Okay, Doug, here are my thoughts.

It seems you're asking about two separate things: how to handle holiday stress and how to deal with a harsh world. I'll try to address both:

Dealing with holiday stress

We'll feel stressed or sad if the upcoming holiday season is unlikely to live up to the stereotype, for example, a party with the happy extended family laughing and bonding. Here are four ways to address the situation:
  • Create Christmas: Gather hand-picked relatives and friends or make new ones by taking out a Craiglist platonic ad or even people you like at work, in an avocation, or even at a bar. Invite them to a Christmas party at your place, the community room at your apartment complex, wherever. Invite a lost soul to spend New Year's Eve with you. 
  • Volunteer your butt off. A great way to deflect feeling sorry for yourself is to turn your attention to helping others. 
  • Forget the norm and enjoy the holidays in solitude. Music, TV, your favorite foods, a glass of wine, contemplation or writing, can make a Christmas that's more rewarding and less stressful than what many people experience.
  • Resolve to make more friends or build family relations so next year's holidays will be better.
Of course, a major source of Christmas stress is gifting. Except for a present I bought on Amazon for my wife and one for my best friend, I've forgone gifting and instead created a musical and storytelling holiday e-card that I sent broadly. If someone likes me less for not buying them a present, I believe it's their failing, not mine. For years, I've been sending only an e-card on which I read or play piano and haven't lost one friend as a result.

The harsh world

True, the world seems to be getting harsher. People don't keep their promises. They don't return phone calls. Job applicants often don't even get the dignity of a rejection letter-- they must wait indefinitely hoping, in vain. Even family members may screw each other, especially for money. As my father said, "Respect but suspect."

But there are many good people plus many more who are good when treated well. Easier said than done but I believe it's worth working hard to be a good person. Also, maximize the amount of time you spend with good people and minimize time with lesser lights. Do those things and your stress will likely diminish and somehow the world won't seem so harsh.

I hope that helps, Doug.

1 comment:

Doug Skinner said...

What a gem, Marty. I have already adopted nearly all your suggestions, and have found that they work exceedingly well. My volunteer work seeking donor for a non-profit has been a blessing. Our Christmas party, which we will host in a few days has been a source of joy. I love how making offerings to others gives me relief.

As for the world, my response to challenges is to remember your father’s advice respect but suspect, look forward, be optimistic about situations and people as often as possible.


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