Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Couples feet in front of cozy fireplace

A Pandemic Perspective for Dealing with Holiday Stress

by James Porter November 12, 2020

Every year I write pretty much the same old blog about holiday stress. It’s always about having too much to do and not enough time to do it: Between the food shopping and the baking and the gift giving and the entertaining and the sending out of cards, it’s exhausting just thinking about. But in this pandemic year, I think we have the opportunity to do something really different.

Why not rethink the holiday season from start to finish: we have the chance to make it more intimate and more about gratefulness for what we already have, than about finding the perfect gift for someone who might not even want what you spent weeks trying so hard to find! 

Even after the pandemic goes away, life will never return to the way it was before: More people will work from home, more people will connect online, more young adults will move back home, we may even end up living in extended families again, like we did for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The pandemic gives us the very real opportunity – partly out of the necessity- to re-examine and remove ourselves from the usual Holiday rat race and take comfort in the real meaning of the season.

It is about being grateful, about coming together and about sharing what we have in abundance with others who are less fortunate. And this year, out of necessity, it’s going to be about getting together in smaller groups, spending less money, and perhaps sharing non-material goods like food, love or shelter.

The pandemic has already given me some wonderful gifts. I don’t have to travel to put on presentations. Two of my children have moved back home. Some of their friends have stayed with us for an extended time as well. We have spent more time outside. We have entertained outside. And in many ways, our lives have returned to some simpler elements of a by gone era.

Back in 2001, there was a reality TV show on PBS called Frontier House. Three families were chosen to live as frontier families would have lived in Montana in the late 1800’s. Each family was given 160 acres on which to farm, raise cattle, and build a house. They had to wear the same clothes, eat the same food, exist on the same budget, not use any toilet paper and buy their goods and groceries from a country store that was a ten mile hike away through two mountain passes that was specifically created just for the series. While some family members occasionally bickered and complained about all the changes in their lives, it was easy to see many benefits those changes had brought about as well.

The families had to work together. They lived more simply. They slept better with no lights to keep them awake at night, not to mention the fact that every single participant lost significant amounts of weight. It’s exceedingly rare, but not unrewarding when we CHOOSE to live with less.

Perhaps we can apply these same principles (of forced change) to dealing with holiday stress

Now that the pandemic has come along and suddenly forced my family to become players in an updated version of Frontier House: we built a garden, we stowed away food, we built fires, we didn’t travel. We went to the store less. We walked more and ate healthier because we weren’t eating out at all. In other words, the pandemic, by forcing us to make changes, offered us up many new opportunities.

Many of the changes in my household, if you really think about it have rekindled centuries-old values we’d either lost or forgotten. What values have you forgotten or lost around the holidays? Maybe this is the year to bring them back, and by so doing rid ourselves once and for all of the artificiality, the over-focus on money and copious consumption, and return the holidays back to their roots as the low-key affair they once were. 

James Porter
James Porter


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