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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress


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Have you vowed to be less stressed this Christmas? Here are a few tips from two moms who know a little something about stress. Pam Lobley is the author of Why Can't We Just Play? What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy, a memoir of how she let her over-scheduled kids spend an entire summer forgoing ALL planned activities and instead just “play.” Annette Ross is the author of Where Fairy Tales Go: A Love Story, the story of her accidental paralysis during the birth of her second child, and her journey forward with her family. Together they have a few ideas about how to dial back the pressure.

Pam: OK, Annette, you’ve got five kids! What is your biggest tip to avoid stress?

Annette: Stop comparing your holiday to others! To compare is to despair! Somebody always has a bigger tree, better outdoor lights, and their Christmas card is done in plenty of time.

Pam: Those people are the worst. And I think I’m Facebook friends with every single one of them.

Annette: Instead of getting caught up in the hype, I find it helps me to make a point to do something special with each daughter. I have five daughters and time alone with each is so special. Mia likes to bake, Natalie will want to sit at Starbucks and talk, Georgia just wants me to stop to play with her.....

Pam: That sounds so nice. And I would add – let the child pick what you’re going to do. I used to try to make my two boys help decorate the tree and it was torture. They would just get Spiderman and Darth Vader and try to use the Nativity Scene as a staging ground for action figure battles. One year they won some inflatable candy canes at a party and just beat each other over the head with them, sometimes to the tune of Jingle Bells. Of course I let them do it because then my husband and I could focus on the tree. I was just trying to fill the “happy family decorates the tree” picture in my head, and it didn’t work.

Annette: Banish all perfect pictures from your head! That’s true for anytime, but especially around the holidays. Don’t wish away the holidays – they are a gift – as is any day that we get to wake up and breathe. Each Christmas is different as our children grow up.

Pam: So true. I loved the Santa years … but now that my kids are older I love the teen years, too. It’s such a relief to say to them “We can’t afford a laptop, ask for something less expensive.” Staying on budget is a major stress-reducer.

Annette: It’s so hard not to overspend! Have you noticed that when you’re shopping for others you always find something for yourself, too?

Pam: Always!

Annette: Really, though, time spent with the ones you love are more important than gifts. Instead of shopping, you could take friends out to lunch or plan an activity with your family.

Pam: As far as “stuff” goes, we’ve had big Christmases and a few lean ones. I did notice when the kids got too much stuff, it stopped meaning anything. One or two special things are all it takes.

Annette: Having said that, it is so important to be able to receive! There are people in our lives that have the means and desire to give and we need to be gracious and let them.

Pam: My in-laws were like that. They grew up in the Depression, and abundance on Christmas was so important to them. They’ve passed on now, and those Christmases are terrific memories.

Annette: As our loved one pass away, Christmas becomes a touchstone for all of our lives. As we’re racing around, ask ourselves, is what I’m doing important to our Christmas this year? Or am I just stretching myself too thin for no good reason?

Pam: One final tip: give books as gifts! Shopping for presents in the bookstore is a perfect – you can go to one store and get something for literally everyone on your list, no matter what their age or interests.

Annette: Merry Unstressed Christmas, Pam.

Pam: Merry Unstressed Christmas, Annette!

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