Harps Not Lyres Nip Holiday Anxiety in the Bud Hesley Harps

Guys. The holiday season gives me serious anxiety. It all starts when the decorations go up in October and then, by the time we arrive in a November full of Walmart stampedes, pepper spraying grandmas, traffic, crowds, incessant holiday music, and high expectations, I’m done. Honestly, it just wears me out. There is just so much pressure to find a great gift for everyone! Shopping is a huge investment of time and money and when I’m finally done with it, I almost just want to drop the gifts off as quickly as possible and then run home to my sweatpants and Frasier re-runs.

I was facing these familiar feelings today, wishing that I could get rid of all the stress surrounding my travel plans, budget for gifts and decorating, and desire for approval from friends and family, when it hit me: it can stop. Seriously, just stop. Look around you. People celebrate many different things during this time, but it all boils down to the fact that we try to take a moment to recognize the power of light in the darkness. That’s huge.

So this season, I am going to challenge myself to really think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I want to reflect on the people in my life and then do something real for them. I don’t want it to be about how clever I can be, or how expensive the gifts are, or how much work I had to do to find them. I want to think about each person’s individuality and create something for them. It might be a letter telling them how much I love them and why. It could be a homemade gift or snack or donation to a cause that they are really passionate about. It could be inviting them to do something I know that they love to do. Whatever it is, I want it to be a real experience.

I know this is usually a comedic column, but I want to encourage you to slow down and let things really affect you, instead of rushing to the next “thing.” Take your time decorating. Maybe do it with a friend and make a new memory or tradition. Maybe make your own decorations but, if you don’t like crafts, don’t feel pressure to make anything! That’s what the 99 Cent or Dollar Store is for! Set realistic goals for gift shopping, realize that no one is pressuring you to give “the best gift ever” except for you, and focus on the sense of joy that the season inherently brings. Take the time you would have spent stressing over all of these things and let it go. Invest that time in those you love.

Of course, this is easier said than done, so I am up to a serious challenge, but I want to nip this pressure and anxiety in the bud and focus on what matters and WHY. Once, when I was stressing and stressing and STRESSING over a problem, one of my dear friends gave me some really great advice. She told me to ask myself, “Why is this so important to me?” I did and the reasons I was worried surprised me. If you find yourself stressing this year, stop and ask yourself why you need to feel this way. Chances are, you don’t need to feel so bad!

Let me be clear, you don’t have to go completely rogue and give everyone a toothbrush holder you carved out of “found wood,” or swear not to shop at the mall, but I think it would be nice to take the time to contemplate the “why” behind the gifts we give and really let our loved ones know they’re special.

In the process of setting this goal for myself, I’ve found a few DIY holiday gift sites for inspiration and I’ve linked to my favorites below. Does anyone else have cool suggestions? Have a happy and fulfilled holiday season!


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  1. Love it!!!

  2. I am trying to do the same thing this year… everyone of my beloved ones gets something homemade :)
    I still need to knit some Socks and a Scarf and Hat for my mum… and I still need to think about what to give my dad..
    But all the other stuff is done or mostly done at least ^^

  3. In my experience, small but thoughtful gifts are the best. I always try to think of what somebody might need, but wouldn’t necessarily go buy for themselves, which gives it that surprise element. Then they’ll always remember you as the person who got them an awesome, well thought out gift that they use all the time.

  4. I think I might bring my best friend to claires and let her get one of those little baskets and do the 10 items for 10 dollars thing (If they still have that…. it’s been a while). That seems like a fun way to enjoy an experience together yet be goofy and fun! I agree with you that presents themselves really don’t need to be the focus.. its just about loving each other.