The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?


Flor Leon

Senior, Da’Juana Namira Nance (left), Senior Ruben Navarrete (middle) and Sophomore Leonardo Alcantara (right) are all feeling the stress of the holidays.

When people are asked what do the holidays mean to them, generally the responses go along the lines of, “Getting together with family,” “Enjoying gifts with my close friends,” “Honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.” These are all very typical answers and they all reflect how wonderful the holidays can be, but why are people so anxiously running around the mall like a bunch of penguins? Why are people falling into debt as they buy carloads of Christmas presents? Why are people so irrationally worried about the perfect gift for someone, the best food to bring to the party, or the perfect outfit to wear to that party? Since when did Christmas have such high expectations?

With the holidays coming around, students tend to overwhelm themselves more than they should. Senior Lizbeth Garza says the holidays stress her out. “Especially the presents because you have to go back and forth on what to give that person, and also the excitement for it which adds a lot of pressure on you,” she said.  Meanwhile, Junior Cecilia Sanchez said, “I enjoy everything about the holiday. Every year, I am excited for Christmas to arrive. I don’t worry about spending the money. I usually save my money throughout the year and always know what my friends and family want because I ask them throughout the year.” Two very different responses, but on a Twitter poll run by a Blaize staff writer, only 30% of students feel that the holidays are stress free, compared to 70% that are stressed out. Another poll showed that 60% of respondents stress most about spending during the holidays, while 9% stress about traveling, and 14% stress about planning.

The holidays are meant to be joyous occasions with friends and family, but with gift giving and spending, it seems to be more hectic than joyful. Students have all been affected by the holiday stress. With the help of the school’s college counselor Christopher Chiakulas and psychology teacher Jeffrey Baird, The Blaize shares some tips on how to Christmas shop wisely and how to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Chiakulas, who majored in business at Depaul University, said that the biggest problem people have with spending during the holidays is that they usually end up spending a lot more than they can afford.  Chiakulas offers tips on how to save and manage money for holiday spending:

  • Make a budget. Figure out what you typically make. Subtract what you spend on a daily basis, for example on gas or lunch. Then figure out what your total will be for Christmas gifts, so you don’t overspend. Look for sales, coupons or weekly deals.
  • Start early. When shopping last minute, customers will buy whatever the price tag claims without acknowledging better deals. Don’t go to the first place you see and buy it. Compare prices online and in store. If you buy online, don’t wait on Christmas Eve to order gifts because that’s spending more on shipping.
  • Sacrifice. Live within your means. If you know you really want to buy something start saving early. Try not to go out as much, or skip going out for lunch everyday… Sacrifice in order to afford what you want.

Chiakulas also said,  “Shopping online can offer better deals just because you can shop around a lot more. You can buy items from all the way across the world. That opens up your opportunities for a better deal versus going to the store and spending gas or eating out because you get hungry after a long day of shopping.” But Chiakulas says sometimes you do have to get out of the house to shop, “If you need to try something on or buy jewelry, then you might want to actually see what it looks like or any high ticket items,” he said. “But when it comes to a book or DVD, you don’t really need to make a trip to the store.”

When it comes to dealing with the stress of the holidays, Baird offers some sound advice. “Stress happens from over planning or setting the bar so high, that your own high expectations overwhelm you,” he said. “The holidays encourage to make spontaneous creative things but when certain situations like not finding the perfect gift, or having to do a million and one things before Christmas, students feel like they’re not reaching their standards, causing them to be more stressed than they really should be.” Baird’s main piece of advice is to focus on giving time rather than material objects more. He also offers these tips:

  • Say I love you more. Show appreciation to the people that you know, no matter what happens to you, their love and support will always be there. Remind them that you appreciate them by saying I love you more. In the end, we spend the holidays with the people we love and care for, so remind them how much they mean to you.
  • Adjust your expectations. Have an understanding that not everything is easy and simple. Many Christmas movies showcase a lot of decor and ultimate Christmas parties, but what brings real joy is the people in the room. Realize how blessed you are and focus more on the experience than the expectation. It’s not always necessary to be just like a Christmas movie.  
  • Give, give, give.  There are many other ways to give than gifts, and one of the biggest factors is time. It’s simple as taking time out of your day to do a favor for someone or helping those in need. Giving is always better feeling than receiving so donate to someone who actually needs it, such as the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, churches or food pantries. The Lake County website offers a list of many organizations near you.

Christmas has more to it than presents and decorations; it’s showing love and care for people that really matter. It’s a holiday that gives the people the opportunity to smile and to make others smile. Baird said,  “The mid-brain is the pleasure center found in the for brain. This area of your brain is stimulated when we learn, eat gigantic meals, dance, play on the Internet, or anything else we find pleasurable.” The easiest and safest way to activate this area is to give, give, give until it feels good. Studies have shown that when people give presents and/or donate to charities, they show high amounts of activity right in the middle of their pleasure center in their brains. “So if you’re feeling down, depressed, or anxious about the holidays, remember two things, gifts with meaning, mean the most, and you’re really killing two birds with one stone by giving because you’ll make the person happy as well as yourself,” Baird said.

Holidays are a stressful time but it doesn’t have to be if students know how to make proper financial decisions for gift spending and revaluing the Christmas spirit. “There are more important things during the holidays than what you get,” Chiakulas said. Baird added, “The experience is what’s most important so take advantage of holidays that can make you experience many things.” Perhaps this Christmas will be the most merry students will experience in a long time.