Holiday Pressure and Presents

Thanksgiving is the new Black.

Black Friday, which now starts on Thursday, is the American holiday formerly known as Thanksgiving. This year the day was also referenced in Jewish circles by the cheeky moniker “Thanksgivukkah,” due to the rare convergence of Hanukkah on Thanksgiving. Today is Cyber-Monday, tomorrow is Giving-Tuesday, previously known as the plain vanilla “start of the work week.”  Still with me?

If you spent Thanksgiving the traditional way, counting your blessings and enjoying a tryptophan-induced haze, you may feel some anxiety as the holiday season rushes in like a gusty winter storm.

Let’s be honest, holidays are a pressure cooker for most. The holidays can seem like a major pile-on with too many year-end tasks and too many social obligations mixed in with presents to buy and people to please. Throw in sleep deprivation with some guilt sprinkled on top and voila, a toxic mental cocktail.

However, no need to let the calendar page reading December drag you down. Say goodbye to the media blitz that urges you to shop ‘til you drop and give yourself a break.cyber monday

While Permission Slips can’t help with sticky social obligations and relationships, we do have a few suggestions to help alleviate some of the pressure to find presents.

  • Call a present truce. If you dislike the pressure to give presents chances are your sister-in-law, uncle and best friend share the sentiment.  My grandmother used to say that all she wanted for Christmas was a small box of See’s candy. It was her way of saying, “I don’t need more stuff, just you.” In my 30s I broached the subject of stopping adult-to-adult present exchanges in our family. I started with my sister and barely completed the sentence when she said “yes and thank you!” It turns out that there was secret widespread desire for mutual present-disarmament on both sides of the family. No one wanted to be the first to say it, now we all just wish someone said it sooner. Cards and visits are still appreciated and we still enjoy the occasional white elephant gift.

If there is no truce here are some ideas that go beyond the gift card default option.

  • Don’t expect perfect presents.  Sometimes you select a winner. Other times, you may think you nailed it, but the receiver sees it as a dud. Include a gift receipt inside the box and encourage your recipient to use it without guilt. Don’t judge an entire relationship on the reaction to a gift given once a year. The same goes for you as the receiver.
  • Give the gift of time next year. Give a certificate or “I owe you” to go out to dinner or lunch when you have more time and so does the recipient. Later. Say March 2014 when the holidays will be pleasantly residing in your rear-view mirror and the visit may be more relaxed and enjoyable.
  • Give a gift of memories. Take “throwback” pictures off of Facebook or Instagram and put them in a frame. Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than a fond memory invoked by a nostalgic picture. This can even be paired with a favorite throwback treat. The picture will be around to enjoy for more than a fleeting moment on social media.
  • Give to those who help run your life smoothly. There are some people we all feel really motivated to thank such as a teacher, mailman or hairstylist, but wonder how. Here is a great tipping guide for service providers from the Emily Post Institute

If you are one of the rare souls who delights in shopping during the holiday season – lucky you. Enjoy and disregard all of the above. If you have more Grinch-days than not, we stand by you in your struggle and wish you smooth sailing through the holiday seas.

Carol Lewis Gullstad December 2, 2013 twitter @permissionslips

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