Holiday stress is stealing our joy

Alanna Carlson | Columnist

Like so many Americans, I woke up the Friday after Thanksgiving with my mind churning with an ever-changing, ever-growing holiday shopping list. Between navigating which friends are close enough that I “have to” buy them a gift, which family members I can safely cross off my shopping list, and how I can buy something meaningful for everyone on my list without breaking the bank, I often feel like I have gone half-mad before we have even reached December 1st. And all this mental chaos starts with the most notorious “holiday” of the year, Black Friday.

While it might be nice to save a bit of money, Black Friday sales are possibly the most stressful, consumeristic way to kick off a season that is supposed to be about joy and valuing what we already have. For many, it is the catalyst to stress and anxiety that will last through the entire holiday season, turning the holidays into one of the most difficult times of the year for many Americans.

For a season that is supposed to be a joyful time with loved ones, the holiday season puts an immense amount of stress on our lives, our budgets, and our psyches. There are so many great things about the holidays—spending time with family and friends, the beautiful decorations, the cheerful music and cute movies—and yet forty-five percent of Americans say they would prefer to skip Christmas altogether, according to a survey from Think Finance.

The number one reported stressor during the holidays is finances, according to a survey by Healthline. Forty-seven percent of people cited finances as the most stressful part of the holiday season. That is a huge number. And with only ten percent of respondents claiming to be stress-free during the holidays, perhaps it is time that we as a society examine why we have allowed a season of joy and giving to be waylaid by unhappiness and greed.

This holiday season, take the time to reflect honestly on what is the most important to you during the holidays. Whether is it time with family, religious celebrations, a chance to unwind, or anything else, it is unlikely that what is most important to your happiness this season requires frantic shopping sprees or a rapidly dwindling bank account balance. This year, let’s agree to skip the rabid consumerism and focus on the things we are already grateful for. Let’s stop letting holiday stress steal our joy during the “most wonderful time of the year.