It’s the Most Stressful Time of the Year

by Ken Mueller on November 26, 2012 · 19 comments

It's the Most Stressful Time of the YearI’m just back home after a Thanksgiving trip to visit family in North Carolina, and decided to throw some random thoughts together for my Monday post, though these thoughts are somewhat related.

Here we are just one month away from Christmas. The old familiar song calls it “the most wonderful time of the year”, but I know better. This is the time of year we stress about getting things done before the end of the year and about buying presents for friends and family. And then of course, there is the stress over finances. This is a stress that hits us all: individuals, businesses, and nonprofits.

Of course today is Cyber Monday, a day of online shopping, following up on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. All of which can add to the stress if we let it.

Sometimes vacations can be stressful, at least the travel part of them. On Wednesday we left early in the morning, trying to get a jump on traffic and actually make our 9 hour trip in 9 hours. Well, one hour into the trip, just as we hit the Mason-Dixon line, we got a flat tire. Long story short, we ended up getting picked up by a rather interesting, but very friendly gentleman who gave us a most likely “less than legal” ride on the back of his tow truck. While we waited for our tire to be replaced, we were directed to a pizza place across the street for the “best breakfast in town”, all before 7:30 in the morning. Sure enough, despite being a pizza joint, it was a pretty darn good breakfast, and I think the whole town was there.

What normally would have been a stress creating situation ended up being a fun time for my family of five, despite losing three hours on our trip. And if you want the full version of the story, and why it was funny, you’ll have to ask me in person some time.

This doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year. We can choose to have an attitude that will prevent stress from creeping up on us. As I mentioned last week, some of that comes more from a spirit of giving than of receiving, and focusing on what matters most.

Spending Thanksgiving with family and maintaining contact with friends over the past week was especially meaningful this year as last week began with the death of a friend. Mike passed of a heart attack at the age of 36, leaving two kids behind. Nothing puts our little “first world problems” in perspective more than that.

So despite having a busy schedule over the next month, along with holiday preparations, and visitors in our home for several weeks, I’m going to work hard to enjoy the season, and avoid the stress. And remember, we can also help others avoid stress by helping them out. Check in on your elderly neighbors or those in need. Donate to a nonprofit. Do something good with your time.

If you’re looking for a way to give this season, there are plenty of great causes, but I have one suggestion in particular. I mentioned my friend Jersey Mike and the two kids he left behind. A fund has been set up for young Kaiya and Lennon. Christmas is already going to be very difficult for their family, but even more so in the months to come, as they continue to mourn the loss of their father. You can help out by sending donations to:

K & L Guardian Foundation c/o Jayson Bowser 1518 Green Street Harrisburg, PA 17102.

So let’s get this holiday season started right by not stressing over finances, gifts, shopping, business, or whatever it is that stresses us out, and reach out to do something nice for someone else.

Sound like a plan?

Let’s really make this the most WONDERFUL time of the year, shall we?


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AlaskaChickBlog 1 Like

Hi Ken! It's been forever since I've been by, but I had to come read this when I saw it on my screen! I am glad I did. I am so sorry for your loss, and the loss felt by others. You are so right. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can put things into perspective for any of us, quicker. Everything, no matter how HUGE, has tomorrow to try again, except for a loss like that.

I am feeling pretty passionate about the whole subject, as it is coming to a head here, in my world too. (Of course, I am writing a post about it!) I know things are so hard, Ken, on so many. So very many. But, what I am seeing and hearing is the lack of acknowledgement, to total disregard (not good enough, not big enough, it wont help) for the blessings that ARE there, to see, to feel, to revel in and gain strength from.

Sigh. Ok! Wonderful post, Ken! Have blessed and safe holidays and an inspiring new year!~


I'm trying REALLY hard not to stress, but I have 20 days of travel between now and Dec. 22. I don't know when all the other stuff is going to get done. I guess it just will ... or it won't and I'll be that person at the mall on Christmas Eve.

KenMueller moderator

@ginidietrich Well, you get a little bit of a free pass if you're gonna be traveling that much! Kelly can do all the shopping for you, OK? And one of the best ways of reducing stress is to not take WWF so seriously. Go easy on me!


Not celebrating holidays is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there's no stress. On the other hand, there's no tradition, no memories being made. I'm not sure either way is the right way to go.

KenMueller moderator

@girlseeksplace I could go both ways with that. Certainly I enjoy the holidays, and I think it can be done with a minimal amount of stress.

JoanneCalderwood 1 Like

Nicely written! Refusing to stress is a gift we can give to those around us. Thank you for the reminder. :)

KenMueller moderator

@JoanneCalderwood Yeah, the last thing our families need is for us to be stressful. If we stress, it makes the whole house stress. But if we can be a calming presence...good things will happen.


My plan, of late, is to treat every time of the year as the most wonderful. It really takes the pressure off; I highly recommend it.

KDillabough 3 Like

"Avoid the stress". Wise words. Wise action. I tend to go completely opposite at this time of year to the madding rush. I slow down. I savour more. I relish in the spirit of the season. No crazy running around and shopping (I tend to buy things throughout the year, because the "perfect gift" for someone tends to just present itself, and I tuck it away). I like reading by the fire, decorating the house, preparing for family arrivals. I breathe more deeply, even in this crisp, Canadian air. I take time to reflect, and to plan.I simply don't stress. But then again, I rarely stress as it is. Oh yes...something might get me down or disappointed, but that's fleeting. I experience it briefly (I might even blog about it;), but then I let it go.

Even when my boys were little I refused to do the crazy-mad-frenzied mall dance, and now, as adults, they too see the season as a time of family, fun, relaxation and "people not things". I wish for everyone a stress-less holiday season. Cheers! Kaarina...and thanks again for the lovely tip of the hat:)

KenMueller moderator 1 Like

@KDillabough I think if we can get thru this time of year without stressing, then we can do it all year long. It's a great time to start working on it!

AmyMccTobin 2 Like

Glad you made it back, so we can put you to work.  Seriously, great post. Years ago my significant other and I stopped the madness. Of course we buy for our daughter, and a few very special people... but we've eliminated the financial stress from the holidays completely.  We just focus on being with the people we love.  Great post.

KenMueller moderator

@AmyMccTobin We've worked hard not to get caught up in it over the years, and it's paid off. Our kids are 17, 20, and 23, and they are all pretty much the same way. I love seeing how they "get it" and don't obsess over having lots of "stuff".


@KenMueller @AmyMccTobin What's fascinating for me to watch is how targeted YOUNG children are. My daughter has already asked for 57 things....  she looks at the flyers in the Sunday paper, and although she watches very little TV, she wants every toy she sees in every ad.  Of course, she'll learn. This is the first year I remember her being this focused on getting.

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