Ya know, I really do dislike being negative more than 10% of the time. Unfortunately, the big virtue of having one's own blog is the opportunity to blow one's frustrations off into the cyber-void. When one doesn't have a sympathetic audience to LISTEN to one's grinchings, the Internet Gods are there ... whether they actually LISTEN or not. ;-)
Mark has fallen into the trap of recommending the impossible again! How can we move from finding the holiday season stressful, to finding it more enjoyable and life-affirming? Hint: don't be poor, or associated with conventional family and friends, or "responsible for the happiness of others" ... and it would probably be wise to not be female, either.
In my experience, Mother is the one who finds the holidays most stressful. Coincidentally, 40% of the population see a lot of stress and ... probably 40% of the population is that female and maternal demographic in question. Mother usually does most of the decorating, gift-choosing and making/buying, cooking and entertaining. She stays up late on Christmas Eve wrapping presents and filling stockings, while Dad (in a lot of houses, anyway) dozes off in his easy-chair. She is expected to provide all the traditional goodies, at the same time as fighting to RESIST cookie-eating and eggnog-swilling, etc -- because if she "loses her figure" it's her own damn fault that her health goes down the toilet, her husband deserts her for the student-intern, society sneers at her, and she hates herself as well!
In a perfect world, there are no monetary worries and everyone will LOVE exactly what you give them for your holiday of choice. No-calorie treats will taste exactly the same as the ones full of butter and sugar. The string of lights will NOT go dark the minute you finish hanging them, and there will be no internet outage as your order from Amazon is being processed. Your favorite Christmas special will be aired on the one night you don't have a delightful party to attend.
Most people don't live in that world.
As educated SAD sufferers can tell you, there are biological reasons our bodies get fatter and more lethargic in the fall and early winter. We are DESIGNED to slow down just at the time our culture insists that we speed up, revving our brains with the resuming school year and autumnal observances.... The winter-solstice holidays are logical celebrations of the "return of light" -- not because of silly oh-my-god-the-sun-is-disappearing superstitions, but because the lengthening daylight is energizing and mental-health-promoting to those who are sensitive. If a light-box helps you, then Christmas/Chanukkah/Diwali make PERFECT sense. (thanks, Wooo, for all you've taught me)
So what to do to reduce seasonal stress? Well, it's going to depend on your particular situation. If you're a young family, you can condition your kids and spouse to have different expectations from "the norm." If your family is reasonable, you can make a pact to simplify and share the load. There are probably ways to ameliorate almost any difficulties, even if you can't remove them entirely. OF COURSE you want perfection, but if you don't make yourself miserable with a sense of failure when it doesn't happen, you will be less stressed. Do YOURSELF some kindnesses as well as all you insist on doing for others.
If any of my readers have traditionally been a more passive enjoyer of the season's pleasures, you can make everyone happier by being more proactive. Even a patient, appreciative and cheerful attitude will be a blessing on the household!
Happy relaxing holidays, everyone! :-D