Gosh, that sounds brutal. Can't say I understand because this time of year I get some time off work, but I always think I will have more time than I really do. There is always a million more things to be done than I thought there was so yeah... The 25th aways comes about a month sooner than I expected. Not to mention the fact that my parents are coming to judge how inadequate I am, and how old my kitchen is, and how I could have renovated my kitchen instead of building a barn... yes, that part is always fun :(
You raise an excellent point about supporting local businesses though! I admit, that some specialty items I get online because I can't buy them locally (like football gloves for my son). But this year I have made two commitments, ok three. 1 - only buy presents if you have to. Many are happier to get something you made! I give horse treats to my horsey friends, and some cookies we make. DD and I are trying biscotti for the first time! 2 - if you have to buy, especially if it's something vague for someone you barely know, buy local! I love a local goat's milk soap company. Since I started using their soap, I stopped having dry, itchy skin in the winter! So I order bulk direct from the goat keeper/ soap maker and she makes me a good deal because I am a repeat customer. Who doesn't need nice soap? Other ideas include locally made crafts and jewelry, a riding lesson, painting class, singing lesson, etc. I paint, so for years, I have traded a small painting for some nice earrings, a bottle of maple syrup or honey (we produce both) for some jams and jellys, etc. Finally, # 3 is not to use any commercial gift wrapping. They are not recyclable, so why are we still using them? I bought some plain brown paper that IS recyclable, and we'll decorate them using natural or pre-enjoyed cards as decorative touches.
I will say that my daughter has experienced Christmas stress this year and last. She's only 14 this year, but for the last two years, has sold animal-shaped wreaths at Christmas. Last year she made over 500$ and this year she's at 800$ so far! She works hard, but has already paid for one school trip, and has begun paying for the second one she wants to do in the spring. People love her wreaths, and often give her a tip over and above the asking price. However, she spends 4 hours on each wreath, and is very attentive to detail. It's a great life lesson, but she's exhausted. So I'm not stressed in my own work, but I worry about how hard my daughter pushes herself. Keep in mind we would never ask her to do these things - but she is determined and figures it's a lot more efficient to do this than sell chocolate bars door to door.
I hope for your sake that this is a generous season and that you get the time off you need and deserve!