"The holidays are so stressful!"

How many times do we hear people say that at this time of year? How often do we say it ourselves?

Probably a lot, and it's understandable. The most wonderful time of the year is also often the most stressful time of the year. Everyone's busy with last-minute gift-buying, parties for hosting, pushed-up deadlines at school and work, and trying to coordinate visits with family and friends. (Driving in the bad weather is also stressful, for me at least. Although if we have another largely snow-free winter like last year, that may not be a problem!)

All these things are part of what the holiday season is all about, and most of us accept that and plan for it. The Christmas season seems to get busier with each passing year, and we often compensate by doing everything faster. Sometimes that's necessary, but in doing that, it's very easy to wear ourselves out and possibly become bitter or cynical about the holidays.

Amid the hustle and bustle that comes hand-in-hand with December, I think it's important to make sure we remember to relax and enjoy the holiday season as much as we can. Part of what makes this time of year so special is the opportunity to unwind and appreciate the company of our loved ones. Since we spend so much of the season operating at an accelerated pace, it's sometimes easy to forget that -- and we shouldn't.

We all love to watch Chevy Chase in the now-classic holiday film National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, as he literally drives himself crazy trying to provide the perfect yuletide experience for his family. While his hapless character is well-intentioned, there's a reason that movie gets so many big laughs -- it's illustrating how silly it can be to try to make everything "just right" during the holidays.

No matter how much planning we do, Christmas will never turn out exactly the way we intend, frustrating as that may be. But if we enter the holiday season expecting to be stressed, I think we probably will be. Conversely, if we resolve to enjoy ourselves as much as possible, I think that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There's a lot going on in our lives at Christmastime, and we usually can't help that --but it will go a long way toward making the whole season calmer and more fun if we remember to cherish the time we get with our loved ones and be thankful for it. And that's an important part of what the season's about.

So have yourself a merry -- and stress-free -- Christmas. As stress-free as possible, at least.

Email: sshriner@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9426