Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Woodsonian Inspirational Musings on Monday: Getting Through the Eating Seasons- Managing Holiday Stress

All holidays can destroy our peace, weight and budgets, but the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be the worst. December’s Woodsonian Inspirational Musings on Mondays will explore the dangers, and suggest simple strategies. Informational Thought on Thursdays will offer some of my favorite recipes. We all need help, so please tell us about your own challenges, and share your recipes and solutions.

Stress of Expectations

We see images from greeting cards or dream of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but these expectations shatter against family we actually have. Uncle Pete still sticks his finger in the gravy; Auntie Lil always gets drunk and tells stories the family wishes everybody would just forget. We also exhaust ourselves: working all day, coming come home to spend hours fighting other shoppers, cooking, and decorating. Once we have everything the way we think it should be, somebody flies in on a broom,  swiping at counters, peering in pots, comparing the sweet potato pie to Grandmom’s, and telling everyone about somebody else’s  “fabulous” house, food, whatever. ARRGH!  In addition to the stress generated this year, we anticipate stress from previous years. What stories will Auntie try to tell? What are the haters going to sneer at, or boast about? What’s Cousin Evie going to do if ex-Uncle Steve drops by with his latest chickie-poo?

Love yourself enough to know that the glass is neither half full, nor half empty; it’s twice as big as it needs to be and everything you have is enough. Do the things that give joy to you and the people who love you. Show that you don’t accept any other judgments by smiling and ignoring them. If you get upset, or scurry to “fix” things, the haters win. If you just have to do something, call the haters and ask, “Will you do the sweet potato pie this year?” They’ll either backpedal, or do it, leaving one less hassle for you. Execute a pre-emptive strike for ex-Uncle Steve. If you’re still close, ask him to be more sensitive, or invite him and his ladyfriend to another gathering. If he’s just starting ish, talk to your aunt about behavior that will outclass him. If it won’t open the drama door, uninvite him.

Stress of Over-doing.

I used to do holidays the way I enjoyed them growing up. The problem with all that cooking was, there was only one of me when there were several cooks back in Philadelphia. It was SIMPLIFY or DIE!

Do you need ALL of those Christmas lights? If you’re in a light fight with the neighbors, start early and do a little at a time, or hire some help. Must there be 3 meats, 5 starches, 4 veggies, and 3 desserts? If so, delegate.  Cook what you love to cook (or get the most props for (-: ) and get others to pitch in.

Stress of over spending. Nuff Said

Set a budget and stick to it. If there are lots of kids, “Santa” doesn’t have to bring everything. Coordinate gifts among the adults so the little ones are still happy with their haul. Big families can do a Secret Santa. On Thanksgiving weekend, we agree on a maximum price, and everybody posts a list of 5 things they’d love to get. My daughter got 2 copies of the Daft Punk CD last year; now, we coordinate.

Most of all, try to decrease the materialism and increase the joy. Spend time together. Give a pot luck, or pizza tree-trimming party and ask everybody to bring one ornament. I’ve gotten some wonderful handmade memories.

Recipes on Thursday. Next Monday: How to avoid drowning in a sea of food.

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