The best way to beat festive stress

The festival season might be run and done, but here’s a quick glance back at something we all have to deal with every holiday season…

So you know what the whole festive holiday season means to me? Stress.

Rushing to do too much in too little time, traffic and crawling around overstuffed multi-level carparks.

If anything proves the existence of the devil, it’s carparks. No matter how many levels high they might be, it always feels like you’re underground and surrounded by urine and crime.

Once trapped inside, you crawl around looking for a park or an exit, and there’s always a point when you feel as though you’re never going to find either.

Carparks for me are a reminder of what really happens during the holiday season. Before the break begins, you imagine it will be filled with all the fun stuff you never had time for during the year, but you never budget for the time wasted in carparks.

To properly enjoy your leisure time, you make sure everything else is done first, but when that stuff doesn’t get done, you run out of time for fun.

The way life is structured, we always seem to leave the things that we enjoy most until last. The holidays are the one time of year when I’m sure it’s not going to happen again, and then it happens again.

All those little obligations slice away at your holiday pie until it’s all over way too soon; tasks you don’t see coming, or because they’re so mundane, you assume they won’t take any time at all. Picking up relatives from the airport, lining up at the deli, parking the car. Which all used to make me super-stressed.

Then, with everyone constantly reminding me that it’s the exact opposite of what this time of year is supposed to be about, it just stressed me out even more.

So you know what I’ve realised? It’s not all about me. A lot of these obligations involve us doing things for other people.

Maybe you’d prefer not to go to so many family functions, to drive back and forth from the airport, to return to that overcrowded shopping centre because your aunty forgot the custard. But you do it because you’re a good person and you care about others. The only change is, I’ve decided to do it with a smile.

So I’ve accepted that part of my holidays will be spent stuck in traffic, in shopping crowds and telling relatives I’m still not married, I don’t have a real job, and I’m basically failing at adult life.

I’ve realised there’s no point doing all these things for others if I’m carrying around a horrible attitude. Nobody gives you fewer tasks and obligations because of your bad mood, all you’re doing is dragging everyone down with you.

Whatever happens, however I feel, no matter if I’m seething inside, I now try to smile and crack jokes. I have the best time I can in the situation I’m in.

Then yesterday, I had a surprising experience after 40 minutes in a carpark. I discovered that, through a forced smile, it’s still possible to very loudly shout obscenities.

People looked at me concerned, but then they saw I was smiling and they smiled back. Which made me smile for real.

This article first appeared in The Brisbane Courier Mail:

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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