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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

Say Goodbye to Just One Thing on Your List

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Picture this: My 2-year-old twin boys are grinning widely and staring right at the camera. AT THE SAME TIME.

They are dressed in coordinating outfits, not matching like when they were infants because they are their own person now and we must celebrate their toddler individuality. The backdrop is vintage French country chic. Across the bottom, in a whimsical font, are the words: “From Our Family to Yours, Happy Holidays.”

Do you have this image in your head? Great! Now, still in your head, imagine walking over to your fireplace mantle, refrigerator or basket and adding the card to the other smiling families in coordinating outfits.

And holiday cards....... check!

This simulation is as close to cards as I am doing this year, but this is not a condemnation of holiday greetings. I happen to love holiday cards. I eagerly await any I am lucky to receive from friends and family and I proudly display them.

Rather, I’m not doing holiday cards this year because I just needed one thing to cross of my holiday season to-do list. Just. One. Thing. I could have easily chosen to scratch any one of the tasks that fill our stress buckets around this time of year. But when I thought of the holiday cards process — getting a decent picture, choosing the design, ordering, addressing and mailing — it sounded like a complete headache. And why have a voluntary headache?

Traveling over Christmas with toddlers and their STUFF to my in-laws is also a pain. But the payoff — time with their grandparents, great-grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins — makes it more than worth it, not to mention a non-negotiable. And there are other responsibilities during this season that just have to happen out of necessity, etiquette or, best of all, because you truly enjoy it (what a concept).

So why keep the burdens we place on ourselves that are neither necessary nor enjoyable (and I'm being liberal with the word "necessary")? Anything you place on your to-do list at this time of year should check at least one of these boxes. Holiday cards, for me, fulfill neither of those requirements.

The idea of sending cards never occurred to me until I had children. Now all of a sudden, it felt incumbent upon me to show off my boys, as if they cared to wish anyone a holiday greeting who wasn't sticking a bottle in their mouth. Obviously the cards are not — and never were — a necessity. And once I made the decision to drop them last year, I felt much more equipped to handle the other things on my list.

I am fully aware that there are much bigger stresses in people’s lives right now than cards. And those stresses are typically compounded during the holidays. I wish there was a way to alleviate these hardships that was as simple as crossing it off a list.

But in the meantime, if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I encourage you to take a “one thing” pledge and shorten your to-do list by at least one line. Or keep that task on the list but go ahead and cross it off so you still get that feeling of accomplishment. Because you have accomplished something. You have accomplished making your life a little easier by doing (or not doing) something that was not necessary, not bringing you joy and, presumably, will leave neither you nor anyone else worse off. Congratulations!

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