Andrea here, This month our AAW question has to do with stress and the holidays—something I think we all can relate to! So the Wenches are sharing their secrets for dealing with this universal question: With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, things can sometimes get overwhelming, What do you do to de-stress? Any special ritual or routine that recharges and relaxes? Read on for the answers!
Anne: The holidays here come in summer, so it's important to keep cool as well as stay cool. We don't have Thanksgiving in Australia, only Christmas and New Year, but December is the end of the school and university academic year and the beginning of most people's annual holidays, so there are lots of "end-of-year" events and celebrations. Four weeks annual leave is standard here and many people head for the beach. So between finishing up school, the frenzy of Christmas shopping, closely followed by the new year sales, and trying to balance family commitments with packing for the holidays, it can get a bit hectic. I make sure I schedule time for me. I like to retreat to the garden with a long cool drink and a book, and just sit and read and listen to the birds. I'd rather say no to a few things and have some quiet time in between. Makes for a happier me, which in turns makes me a more pleasant guest or hostess.
I like to put some decorations up for Christmas, but I don't go over the top as I used to. These days my decoration efforts are quite minimal and often home-made. I love it when the house is clean and serene and has a few little Christmassy touches — and the scent of pine. The photo is of a naturally occurring Christmas bauble in the garden — a hakea, an Australian native bush. I find the frenzy of shopping and the accumulation of "stuff" to be unnecessary, so I also like to make some home-made gifts — edible, usually. I've learned not to be perfectionist about things. That can be a problem for me — I have a tendency to want everything to be just so, but over the last few years I've tried to stop thinking that way. The important thing is to relax and enjoy myself and help others to enjoy the season. Things don't have to be perfect to be enjoyable.
Pat: Sorry, I’m allergic to stress. Outside life may occasionally impose the anxiety monster on me, but I refuse to stress myself. Back when the kids were little, I enjoyed hunting for and decorating enormous Christmas trees. I didn’t love driving five hours in snow to visit both sides of the family—but I had no control over that. So now that the kids are grown and my husband is retired, we stay in our sunny home on the holidays. Instant stress reliever! I love cooking holiday dinners and having family and friends over. Planning a meal for meat-lovers, vegetarians, and vegans is an interesting challenge, but everyone contributes what they can, and if we burn something or the turkey doesn’t cook (happened), we laugh and still enjoy ourselves. So sun and warmth, good company and good food are my stress relief.
Nicola: We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK but Christmas preparations seem to gallop towards us at this time of year, plus half the members of my husband’s family have their birthdays in November and December so it’s a pretty busy time! I love the bustle and the family get-togethers and the twinkling approach of Christmas but it can all get a bit too much sometimes so my go to relaxation is what I’m doing right now – a trip to the seaside with the dog so we can all get some knockout sea air and lots of exercise and refreshment. It only takes a couple of hours to get to the seaside from where we live, so we’re very lucky.
If there isn’t enough time to drive to the coast, I’ll get my nature fix on a walk near my home. The fresh air and beautiful scenery never ceases to soothe any stress and help me recharge, ready for the next round! At the end of the busy times there’s also the open fire and a good book – and a long bath with Dr Salts Eucalyptus Dead Sea Bath Salts which are just wonderful!
Mary Jo: Many wonderful and colorful things surround Christmas–enough to make even extroverts wish for a time out, and few writers are extroverts. <G> Luckily, I can pretty much pick and choose how much I want to do. I love Christmas trees and Christmas music, which includes everything from a wonderful holiday concert we've been attending for–maybe 25 years? Plus hauling out the holiday music CDs–many of mine are folk music instrumental renditions.
Food is important, obviously! Seasonal specialties are a pleasure, and pumpkin pie is happily relevant through the whole period. There are gatherings with both families, and I try to get together with various friends over the holiday season. There's also a Christmas Eve service as a reminder of what it's all about. And at least one favorite Christmas movie like The Holiday.
Luckily, I have plenty of time for my introvert solitude. I can always rendezvous with my bathtub full of deliciously scented water, and it also has great reading light above because there's always a book or seven near at hand. A classic Christmas story I read every year is Trisha Ashley's Twelve Days of Christmas. (Thank you, Anne Gracie, for telling the Wenches about this great book! The e-edition is a mere $3.99 in the US.) There is much pleasure to be had in the season–and I'm generally ready for Christmas to be over by the beginning of January. <G>
Jo: When I can't face the dreadful realities — this happens more often than one would think — and yet it's not quite at DEFCON 1 where I go curl into a ball under the covers and put a pillow up top of my head, I take a bath.
Yes. When the going gets tough, the tough take a long, soaky bath.
There are several indulgences in this life that are neither illegal, immoral, nor fattening. Reading books is one. Getting into a very large, very hot, bath is another. I like to do both simultaneously because i am efficient that way.
My house has a 1940s, pre-water-saving tub which would accommodate two lean and athletic young people doing whatever to folks in a bathtub would get up to and certainly holds a less adventurous me with space left over.
I do not need bubble bath or scented oils, rubber duckies or those strange fizzy balls you can toss in that froth all over the place and don't seem exactly relaxing somehow. I feel about a good bath the way some folks feel about Belgian chocolate. It is, in its mystical simplicity, a perfection that needs no embellishment.
Andrea: Getting together with family and friends in quiet celebration of the spirit of the season is always a joy. But I have to confess that the frenetic commercial hoopla around the holidays gives me the heebie-jeebies at times (where I am, there are already evergreen wreaths and Xmas trees appearing, along with screaming ads for holiday gift deals!) And because editors look to clear their desks for the new year, it’s often a time when revisions come flying back on Xmas Eve with a note that they are due on Jan 2. (Yes, this has happened, and —cough, cough—even though I turned in my current book on time, I fear the same thing might happen this year.)
SO, I may need some quiet de-stressing time. Another confession—that usually involves chocolate. One of my go-way to unwind is to bake a batch of chocolate chip blondies, light a candle under a scent diffuser filled Neal’s Dockyard calming mix, get under my fluffy down comforter in the evening and escape from stress with a good book, aromatherapy and a humongous wedge of sweets. Amazing what it does for the spirits! (It’s a good thing I love to take long walks!)
So, those are our ways of coping! What about you? When things get a little crazy during the holidays, what are your favorite ways to de-stress. Please share!