A happy season or too much stress?

Published 9:14 pm Monday, December 19, 2005

By Staff
This year seems to be the worst I remember.
Everyone is complaining about not having enough money to buy Christmas presents, or “Holiday” gifts, as some are insisting they be called.
Stores are marking down items and offering incentives for those who shop early in the morning or others who like to clip coupons.
Even with discounted prices, the extra burden on those families who were already stretched to their limit seems too much.
I was glad to see gas prices close to $2, then they shot up again. My heating bill has gone up considerably in the last four years and I have gotten used to a lower temperature.
When your budget is already lean, saving for extras is close to impossible.
G. M. Johnson, PhD, a clinical psychologist with 20 plus years of experience says Christmas gift giving pressure is potentially damaging to mental health.
He is recommending that anyone who is experiencing extreme stress or stress symptoms related to Christmas expectations simply announce to all friends and family that they are not going to participate in Christmas gift giving.
"Christmas time is supposed to be a time for festivities and warm feelings in celebration of the birth of Jesus," says Dr. Johnson. "But for many individuals Christmas is a time of extreme stress related to expectations that leads to spending beyond their means.
"Individuals experiencing extreme stress because of finances should give themselves permission to simply notify friends and family that they are not doing any gift giving and gift exchanges until further notice. And as a society we should all stop contributing to the idea that it is worthy of shame to find one's self in this kind of difficulty.
"There are alternatives to gift giving that can still keep a person involved in the Christmas spirit. Volunteering some hours, for example, at a shelter, would be very much in keeping with Christmas.
Dr. Johnson has some good points. It may be too late to tell people they won't be getting gifts this year, but maybe we can cut down the amount we usually spend.
We can also involve our children in making gifts, or offering to shovel a neighbor's walk. The elderly or disabled often can't do simple things around the house, like replace burned out light bulbs or take out trash.
Giving doesn't have to mean spending. Get creative and have a more meaningful Christmas.