Kristia Cavere Markarian
Cease the Christmas chaos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+
By Kristia Cavere Markarian
November 20, 2015

Christmas is only 35 days away! Does knowing that fill you with delight or dread?

A few days ago Husband Charles suggested I write about keeping calm and centered during the winter holidays. He mentioned that more people have heart attacks on Christmas Day (and the day after) than any other time of the year.

I thought that was too awful to believe, so I did some research, and unfortunately that statistic is correct (here is one reference from CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ho-ho-heart-attack-cardiac-woes-found-to-spike-during-holidays/). I also learned that the same is true for the Hanukkah holiday, with heart episodes spiking during that time for those celebrants.

The medical professionals in the articles I read gave vague answers like cold weather or too much drinking as the reasons why heart events increase during "the most wonderful time of the year." But cold weather lasts for months at a time, and those who overindulge in liquor tend to do so more than just one day a year.

No, the reason there are more health issues on Christmas/Hanukkah is because as Americans we are so overstressed, overscheduled, and overworked in our daily lives that to add the burdens of the holidays is the breaking point for many of us. I believe the three main culprits are the people, the places, and the possessions that are causing the holidays to not only be unhealthy but also unhappy.

First, the people we surround ourselves with should celebrate us, not condemn us. In my previous two columns (on my website) I've written about two individuals who experience ridicule at the hands of their family members. The people we are with can be the most significant cause of stress during the winter season.

Many of us feel a sense of duty, since the winter holidays may be one of the few times a year that family members are gathered together. But we have to have enough love and respect for ourselves not to keep putting us in a situation that is harmful emotionally. Decide carefully who you will spend the most amount of time with over the holidays. Are they people who uplift you, or undermine you?

Second, the places we schedule ourselves to be can't be overwhelming. This is something that each person must discuss with their spouse and immediate family to decide what is best for them. For some families, having three holiday events per week is reasonable, but for other families that would be too demanding on an already packed schedule.

One of the hardest things for many of us to do is say no, and especially during this winter season of giving. But we need to have enough love and respect for ourselves to politely decline any invitation, volunteer opportunity, or anything else in which you do not have time to participate. Decide carefully how you will be spending your free time over the holidays. Is your schedule going to be peaceful, or frenzied?

Third, the possessions (presents) must be in balance with our budget. This is again something that each family must decide on depending on their unique circumstances. I've known wealthy families that concentrate on the religious aspect of Christmas and only exchange very small, token gifts such as a book or tin of specialty tea. And I've known middle-class families that exchange dozens of gifts including expensive clothing and electronics.

In this American culture of consumerism, it is common for people to be pressured to buy gifts for everyone they know. Their list goes beyond family and closest friends to include their children's friends and teachers, neighbors, church members, therapists, hair stylists and manicurists, and on and on. When combined with the pressure for each gift to be spectacular, it's understandable how many spend too much money on too many people, leaving them with debts and depression.

Charles and I decided that our family rule for Christmas presents would be to not buy gifts for anyone but our parents and ourselves. That's it. There is no need for us to descend into the commercial chaos of Christmas shopping when there are so few people to buy things for. This allows us to focus on each person and buy a gift that would truly benefit them.

There is nothing wrong with politely explaining to people, "It's our family rule to only exchange gifts among immediate family members" (or whatever you decide is best). We need to have enough love and respect for ourselves that we control the presents we are purchasing, and not allow the pressure to buy presents control us. Decide carefully how you will budget your finances over the holidays. Is your money going to be spent wisely, or squandered?

Christmas should be about connection with family and loved ones, not commercialism and competition. Take this time before Thanksgiving to set boundaries with the people, places, and presents that will be competing for your limited resources. Remember that the spirit of the season is peace, and the promise of love, and the power of new beginnings. Your heart, and most importantly your soul, will thank you.

© Kristia Cavere Markarian

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Kristia Cavere Markarian

Kristia Cavere Markarian and her husband, Charles, are committed Christians. Her background is in finance, national security, and education. Everyone is welcome to connect with Kristia through Twitter and Facebook. On her website, she writes every weekday about faith & values, marriage & relationships, child-rearing, etiquette, current events, and all of life's joys: www.ChristianHousewifeOfNewJersey.com.

Subscribe

Receive future articles by Kristia Cavere Markarian: Click here

More by this author