Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CUTTING BACK ON YOUR HOLIDAY STRESS


6 Survival Tips You’ve Likely Never Heard

Okay, so ever since the wise man bearing the gold sent those two daft men with the frankincense and myrrh scrambling for excuses there’s never been any such thing as a stress-free holiday. There are gifts to be bought, cards to be sent and strings of lights to attach to the eaves with duct tape. And then there’s the specter of putting on a few extra holiday pounds, looming as real as a lawsuit from the ACLU if you refer to them in public as ‘extra Christmas pounds’. These are harrowing days indeed. But by following these half dozen bits of unconventional holiday wisdom, garnered from years of experience involving five sisters, thirty-odd cousins, nine nieces and nephews and now three little elves of my own, you too can lower your blood pressure even as your credit card balances float skyward. So kick back, take heed and then kick back some more – with a bowl of foil-wrapped chocolate balls.

Tip #1 – Shop at the last minute. Sound a bit counterintuitive? Of course it does. For most people shopping for gifts is about as relaxing as hearing that Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer song every twelve minutes. But this year, try this clever and sneaky strategy. In the run-up to Christmas find out what others have gotten for the people you also have to shop for. Then go out and get the same things. Feign innocent embarrassment when they open up your duplicate presents, then enjoy their apologies for having to exchange your gift for (and they won’t say this but it works in your favor in the long run) something they really want. Bingo! A successful shopping season and you haven’t missed a single football game.

#2 – Send generic Christmas cards. Maybe you’ve managed to raise extremely well-organized and photogenic kids and can plan and execute a photo session in front of the tree with all of them neatly-dressed and smiling and not picking their noses. If your kids are anything like mine, avoid the hassle of trying to drag a fleeting moment of collective fake happiness out of the moody, hyper, crying bunch (‘Say cheese, dammit!’) and send store-bought greetings with candy canes or angels on the front. If you’ve managed a decent family photo during the course of the year put a copy inside the card; something like this will stay on your relatives’ fridges a lot longer than something seasonal and virtually unavoidably cheesy.

#3 – Suspend your self-imposed ban on Made In China. As with going vegetarian, different people have different reasons for not buying Chinese crap. But just as sure as the vegetarian will eventually find him or herself having to choose between eating flesh or going hungry all evening, so will the freedom fighter have to decide whether to spend three times as much for quality, carcinogenic-free products not produced in a breeding ground for human rights abuse or, alternatively, place a personal moratorium on moral principle. Wal-Mart’s got Black Friday? China’s had a black decade. It won't make much difference. Resume the crusade as a New Year’s Resolution.

#4 – Give mediocre gifts. In just about every extended family there’s that one still-single, wealthy uncle who has to outdo himself every year, and unless you can compete with the mini motorized Ferrari he unloads from a U-Haul onto the driveway, your nephew just isn’t going to remember the shirt you got him. So save yourself the headache of searching for that perfect gift and get another shirt – it will be nothing more than one from the pile by the time he has to go back to school.

#5 – Put your Christmas tree in front of the window. Since you have to put up the tree either way, might as well kill two turtle doves with one stone and put it where the neighbors can see it. This not only works as a more intimate display of your Christmas spirit – you’re practically inviting the neighbors into your living room – but you can leave the tangles of outdoor lights in that box in the back of the garage with no one thinking you’ve turned into Scrooge. You’ll also save on duct tape, and you won’t fall off the roof.

#6 – Always go for dessert first. Let’s face it, no matter how much we gorge ourselves at the dinner table we are always going to find a way afterward to cram down some pie, a bunch of cookies and the entire bowl of chocolate balls on the end table in the TV room. Wolf down these things first though and you’ll find yourself content to push your honeyed ham, mashed potatoes and creamed vegetables around in circles with your fork for thirty minutes before declaring yourself too full to eat another bite, saving hundreds and hundreds of calories. There will always be leftover ham for tomorrow, but those chocolate balls won’t last.

Got other unconventional ideas for reducing the stress of the holidays? Leave a comment below. Anonymously if you like.