Challenger School

Stressful Holiday


I don’t know about anyone else, but I am stressed by the holidays. I’m not sure who is experiencing all the joy that is supposed to come at this time of year. Somebody must because we keep doing it year after year. But the people I talk to are as stressed as I am.

Every year, I read articles and hear stories about how to be stress free. And I simply cannot attain it.

I am always worried about getting my son enough for Christmas. I don’t want him to be disappointed.

I have also taken to putting out an elf and a gift every day (or every other day). This is not a tradition I was raised on, and I think it speaks to the increased commercialism of the holiday.

Between all the shopping and the wrapping, it is quite overwhelming.

I am not saying that this feeling is more for me than for anyone else.

I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself always but especially this time of year. Just this weekend, I decided to make cookies for all of the schools I work with. My mom and I used to make Greek cookies every holiday for our colleagues, friends, and family. I wanted to replicate this. It wasn’t the same.

So I suppose that I could take a little off my plate. I could go an easier route and trust in the sentiment of “the thought is what counts.” I agonize over gifts though. I am by nature an anxious person. I think way too hard—”Will the person like it? What if they don’t? Maybe this gift basket will be nice….but wait! They’re on a diet and I will be sabotaging that. Maybe I should get them a basket of healthy food items. But wait! Maybe they will think I am implying they are too fat for delicacies this time of year.” And this goes on and on.

When I give a gift, for the holidays or for a birthday, I always wish and pray that the recipient will open the gift out of my presence. If they open it when I am there, I start to sweat out of anxiety. I get very nervous, as if all eyes are on me and my gift. The moment of truth comes and goes and then I wonder, “Did they react the way I hoped with as much thought as I put into the gift?”

This year, I decided that my family would do some service projects. We would remind ourselves often about the real meaning of the season. Jayden and I started by visiting Papa Murphy’s with some cans for the food bank. We also went and bought a frozen turkey right before Thanksgiving and donated it to a turkey drive at Bennion Elementary.

But the hustle and bustle of the holidays has given way to old habits. There isn’t time to do service to others when you are running here and there trying to make everything perfect, at least in the traditional sense. I wish it were easier to remake traditions. I have blogged about this at a different time.

I know that my stress is of my own making. I make choices and need to live with the consequences.

Every morning, my son opens another box on his countdown calendar. I am counting down the days as well. Isn’t it a shame that while my son is looking forward to the holidays, I am more looking forward to them being over?

If there are holiday survival support groups out there somewhere, I’d love to know. Maybe I should start one. That would force me, though, to make the time.

About author

Dr. Jim Martin

Dr. Jim Martin

Jim Martin is a principal in the Salt Lake City School District and foster dad to two boys. He is graduate of Westminster College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. He then went on to get a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. Jim has taught kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grades. This is his tenth year as a public school administrator. In his spare time, Jim loves theatre and has acted in over 30 productions. He is the artistic director of a local theatre company.

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