You bake 20 pounds of spiced nuts at 3 a.m., even though you have the flu...or cry on Christmas morning when your 4-year-old ignores the giant stuffed panda but loves that 99-cent pack of gum. Those are just a few of the warning signs that the stress is getting to you. Let these wise men and women offer a reality check—and tips for finding joy again.
Fun Things Aren’t
A few years ago, I started dating my boyfriend, and between our different friend groups, we had an overwhelming number of holiday parties to attend. One Sunday we had a brunch, a few afternoon parties, and an evening one. We got to one party, thrown by a close friend, and there were 200 people there. I’d had enough cookies and spiced cider by that point, and I was so tired. I realized that dipping from party to party was stressful—especially figuring out the logistics—and felt a little meaningless. So we decided the next weekend we’d just choose one party and be really invested in it. I had to get over my own FOMO, feeling like I had to go to every single Christmas party that exists. But sometimes you need to take it easy—and you’re not doing anyone a favor by stopping by for 10 minutes. Now I cap holiday parties at about three or four to stay sane.
—Orlando Soria, west coast creative director for Homepolish.
You’re Closing the Stores on Christmas Eve
If I could buy gifts on Christmas Day, I’m sure I would. Instead, every Christmas Eve, I’m rushing from store to store trying to find everything I need. It’s really stressful dealing with the traffic and the parking and the cold, but I seem to be incapable of planning ahead. Even though my wife plans most of the gift strategy for our kids, I always want to supplement it at the last minute. Then I have to come home and wrap like mad, hoping my kids don’t come downstairs while I’m in the act of Santa-fying. Last year I figured out a great solution: I did all of my shopping in a single store. I went to Barnes & Noble on Christmas Eve and I bought every single thing I needed there. Even better, someone was wrapping gifts for charity, so I piled them all up—50 or 60 things—and they took care of them all for me. Stress, gone.
You Impulse Buy, Big Time
The days leading up to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are always a blur. We’re up late into the night on Wednesday inflating the balloons and bringing in the floats. Then there’s a two-hour window where you have to decide if you’re going to try to sleep or stay up through the end of the parade. One year I decided to stay up, and I found myself on eBay bidding on a classic car—which I won. I bought a 1974 BMW 2002 because I needed to stay awake. The car had a stick shift. I’d never driven stick, but that didn’t matter at 2 a.m. when someone started bidding against me. I was going to win. When you’re really tired, it is not the time to contemplate spending a lot of money. I didn’t even get a good price, and I ended up spending three times as much to make it run. The next year, during the two hours before the parade, I found myself looking up old boyfriends! That’s just as bad as shopping. Stay away from the computer.
—Amy Kule, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Things Must Be Perfect at Any Cost
One of my favorite holiday traditions is taking the red-eye from Burbank, California, to New York on December 23rd. I always bring an overflowing bag of California oranges and lemons from my backyard that my mother requests. One year I was getting ready for my flight when I decided to quickly run out to the garden to clip some fresh rosemary for my mother. Maybe make it into a wreath. I slipped on the grass and badly twisted my ankle. I was in agony and could not get up, and then I heard a voice from behind the hedges say, “I’m a doctor. Are you all right?” He helped me get up and said, “I’m taking you to the emergency room.” I said, “I need to be on a flight in three hours!” He just looked at me and laughed. “That is not going to happen.” I spent the night berating myself. Why did I have to go get that rosemary? We all run around before Christmas searching for that perfect something we think will make someone else happy, never feeling like what we are giving is enough. How many of us rush out for that late last minute gift—fighting traffic, spending too much, risking our health? Does it make the holidays that much better? No. The best gift of Christmas is the love we share.
—Illeana Douglas, actress, director, and author of I Blame Dennis Hopper.
There are Uncontrollable Tears
My older son’s birthday is a week before Christmas. So December in our house is beyond busy. One particular year, when the boys were about 6 and 10, we decided to go to a friend’s house for Christmas. We loaded the car with our kids’ presents and their kids’ presents, and then I cried all the way to Connecticut. I cried about the excess of it all, about the message we were sending the kids with all of those gifts. It was a crappy day. From then on, we went away over the holidays, usually for a community service trip. The kids were totally fine with it. They’re not too into things, and they loved the trips. There’s a lot of research showing that if you spend your disposable income on ideas and experiences, you’ll be more satisfied.
—April Lane Benson, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.
You Feel Like Scrooge
The holiday season gets too corporate and cynical sometimes. I’ve been in a place when the three solid months of pre-Christmas marketing hell have finally gotten to me. It reminds me of when I was writing the movie Scrooged with my late writing partner Michael O’Donoghue, and we hit a wall at the end of the script. What could we honestly say was real and special about a modern-era Christmas? We were blocked for weeks. Finally, we realized this truth: for one night, on Christmas eve, even hard, cold and busy New Yorkers were simply nicer to each other. And we wrote that: “For a couple hours out of the whole year, we are the people we always hoped we would be.” I still believe that. So now, when I feel grumpy, I do two things: I go out in the middle of it all—to a mall, busy shopping street, or crowded restaurant. The joy and excitement on the faces, the good spirits and simple manners of that Christmas Eve miracle restores me. Second, I go home, put on my favorite Christmas music, and write everyone I really care about. I tell them that I am thinking of them and loving them.
—Mitch Glazer, executive producer of A Very Murray Christmas.