Friday, December 17, 2010

Hoping to de-stress Advent

Each year by mid-November, moods change. The switch is clear and noticeable. My children come home from school and tell me about fights and bullying. They have trouble focusing on homework. They are on edge. I feel it too. Some of my anxiety if self-imposed, i.e. I should order the Christmas cards; I should make gifts with the children for relatives; I should buy all the presents now; I should wrap them all before December. If my super-mom friends can do this, so can I!

Mostly, the stress comes from the outside. Scheduling conflicts occur. People are moodier and lose their tempers more easily than before.

When I feel unhappy, I blame cold weather, a sedentary lifestyle, and creeping weight gain. I  conclude it must have something to do with Christmas, and I start to fantasize about leaving town for that forced holiday.

Boundaries are disappearing

My friends in the construction trade work crazy hours in order to get chalets ready in time for Christmas. They work over lunch, evenings and weekends--yes, even Sundays--rarely seeing their spouses and children. Their bosses can't say "no" for fear of losing contracts. And those contracts are worth a lot of money in Gstaad, which is home to many of the world's billionaires. Known as die gute Gäste, these rich chalet owners have insatiable and exorbitant demands. And this trend is worsening. The worst are the newly rich, who seem drunk with their new wealth, unable to think of the human consequences of their demands.

I understand that people need money, but there are boundaries; and too much money makes us forget those limits. For example, the overworked husband, who doesn't see his family during Advent, and then, out of guilt, spends a month's salary on gifts, damages the family finances and spoils his children. Is this what he really wants?

Organizing Advent

This year on November 28, my neighbors turned on their outdoor light garlands. I was puzzled. Then,  I googled "Advent" and learned that November 28, 2010, was the the first of the four Sundays before December 25. I also learned that Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming") is a time of expectant waiting and preparation... and of hope.

Then, I had lightbulb moment.

I realized that I will never be like one of my over-achieving friends. So to alleviate stress this year, I decided to split my to-do list into four parts, corresponding to the four weeks of Advent. So far it is helping.

Then, today, I read that Advent used to be a period of fasting starting in the 4th-century. This fast began after St. Martin's feast (November 11) and lasted 40 days. Perhaps, this could be the answer to my weight loss woes?

1 comment:

  1. Good touch to give the meaning of Advent. So much about Christmas stress comes from pagan rituals: Santa Clauses everywhere, shopping mania, ridiculous songs that have no bearing on the meaning of Christmas, etc. Even the tree, a pagan symbol, can bring on stress, with arguments about what size, fake or real, who and how the lights are strung! Ubiquitous office parties, eggnog and overly sweet cakes can really put one over the edge.
    If you've opened your Jacquie Lawson calendar today, you know what a Christingle is; I didn't until today. Wikipedia has a slightly different definition than the calendar's, but its message and symbolism contributed to my appreciation of what parts of this season I enjoy.