Opinion » Maxed Out

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas"...and shortbread and eggnog and...



"God rest ye merry, gentlemenLet nothing you dismay"

Nothing? Are you serious?

In psychological stress tests, one of the questions asked is, "Have you experienced any of the following in the past year?" The list of possible experiences include: terrorist attack; loss of a loved one; loss of a job; and Christmas. Some bullets are harder to dodge than others.

Apparently Christmas is a very stressful time for many people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines many reasons people may find Christmas stressful, including: financial and time pressures; isolation; family tensions, also known as getting along with your parents, kids, siblings and relatives; separation and divorce; bereavement; and reflecting on another year gone by, also known as getting older, which still beats the heck out of not getting older... unless you're really depressed about Christmas, which a lot of people seem to be.

Being driven largely by clinicians, the DSM fails to note the most widely experienced causes of Christmastime stress: Christmas parties, alcohol and shortbread. While there will always be a percentage of the population that experience the officially recognized Christmas stressors, virtually everyone gets to share in those.

Christmas parties, especially workplace parties, are, perhaps, the ne plus ultra of career limiting opportunities. You feel you have to go and that's stressful. You feel like a starched prig if you refuse all drink and that both makes you stressed and constitutes your invitation to the slippery slope. And all the unvoiced sexual tensions that permeate most workplaces, where people are forced to spend more time with each other than their spouses, comes a dancin' out as the evening wears on. That is off-the-scale stressful.

As a counter measure, many workplace Christmas parties have adopted a Bring Your Spouse to Christmas Hell policy. As unfair as office parties are where spouses reluctantly tag along, clinging to your side like velcro because they (a) don't know anybody else there, and (b) prefer not to know anybody else there, at least their clinging presence, no matter what you have to pay to make it up to them, is possibly the only thing that'll keep you from making a complete ass of yourself. Well, that and the fact that these days anything you do to make a complete ass of yourself is likely to wind up on Facebook and/or YouTube. If that doesn't keep you sober — or home with a "cold" — then by all means, make that drunken pass at your boss/boss' spouse.

That shortbread, and the thousand other goodies consisting largely of refined sugar and butter, is stressful is more than adequately demonstrated by the record membership sales every single health club enjoys during the first week of January every single year. You can save some stress over this by waiting until February to join the nearest health club since by then they have been largely deserted by those who've learned to live with the stress of pudge rather than experience the stress of working out.