James Griffin

James Griffin writes The Final Word column in canvas magazine

James Griffin: Holiday season stress

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Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. Photo / Thinkstock
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. Photo / Thinkstock

Correct me if I'm wrong here. Even though this is Auckland, the weather is getting better, right? There is more sun and therefore it is generally starting to feel like summer which is inherently better than winter, no? Weather-wise things are definitely looking up.

And we're heading into that time of year when most of us take time off work, are we not?

People go away on holiday (in the nice weather, we hope) or they hang around at home, not doing very much in the way of actual work. This is meant to be a good thing, taking time off work to rehabilitate body and soul, isn't it?

Plus there is Christmas on the horizon. This is the time when you perhaps get presents and also get to eat, drink and be merry to your heart's content on that one day of the year when society says it is okay to flag away all that healthy eating dietary nonsense in favour of embracing gluttony in all its fatty, wine-soaked goodness. To embrace badness for one day a year is a good thing, right?

So, if we are heading into the time the year defined by (hopefully) excellent summery weather, not working, getting stuff and pigging out, why do we all get so damned stressed about it?

I am pretty sure this is not just me. The sense that this is the time of the year when the populace winds itself up into a great big ball of stress is not something I imagine. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone - worrying about fitting in the shopping with the Christmas parties with the end of the school year and what we're going to do in the holidays and how we're going to pay for everything and all the stuff that needs doing before it is time to do nothing. And then I actually leave the house and it seems to me everyone is driving like lunatics, which only adds another element of mayhem to the stress.

So how, in the name of Santa, are we meant to deal with all this unfair seasonal stress?

Not leaving the house always seems like a good option. And with online shopping, these days it is also an increasingly feasible option. But it is also a rather sad option when, at the metaphorical end of the day, at the actual end of the day you haven't ventured beyond the front door. Also, when you RSVP to Christmas party invites with the suggestion that everyone could pop round to your place instead of going to the flash restaurant, people think you are weird - which you probably are.

The so-called "Mary Poppins option" of smiling relentlessly and just getting on with things as best you can is definitely, well, an option. Unfortunately, a relentlessly smiling person in the midst of the pre-Christmas madness tends to freak out the stressed people around them, which isn't entirely fair as the last thing people need when they're trying to sort out the Christmas ham is the fear that the person standing behind them in the queue is about to snap and go on a rampage.

Alcohol is always an option. It is also not a very good option, in that getting slammed before going Christmas shopping might lead to the family receiving some inexplicable gifts - "Mummy, why did Santa give me a chainsaw instead of a Furby?" - made all the more inexplicable by the fact you have no memory of buying them.

Denial is another option. Go about your business as if the whole Christmas/holiday mash-up doesn't exist. This is probably a valid option up, to a point - the point where you realise the realities of the calendar cannot be avoided and you then cram weeks of mild stress into days of extreme stress. There are no winners in this scenario.

Delegating wisely is another way to go. Get the people around you to do the hard yards.

Try casually slipping in something like, "honey, while you're popping out to your Pilates class, can you also order the turkey and the ham, do all the Christmas shopping, get the tent out of storage so we can air it before we go away, give the car its pre-holiday safety check, go to all the parties and dance recitals and work functions we're obliged to attend, find a suitable tree and stuff it in the back of the car, vacuum up all the pine needles that shed in the back of the car, stand in an insanely long queue at the supermarket with the Christmas supplies, and then go back and stand in an even longer queue to get the stuff we forgot the first time? It'd be great if you could, Sweetie."

Yeah, that should work.

- NZ Herald

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