The Christmas holidays are meant to be a time for joy, peace and celebration. Yet, it can often turn into extra stress, pressure and conflict. I’m pretty sure this is not what the angels meant when they declared,
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
The meaning of Christmas can get lost in parties, presents and pressure. At times the stress of it all seems unavoidable. But with some practical tips, you can reduce the stress that accompanies the holidays and may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.
Just as Christmas is a season that comes around every year, so our lives go through seasons. This may have been a year full of joy for you. If you have a new addition to your family, your Christmas might be happy but chaotic. Perhaps you have experienced loss this year. If someone close to you has recently died or you are unable to be with loved ones for other reasons, understand that it is natural to experience sadness and grief. Recognise your emotions and circumstances and plan for the holidays with these in mind.
Preventing holiday stress
It’s difficult to stop and regroup when stress is at its peak. Try to avoid stress in the first place, especially if the holidays have previously taken an emotional toll on you. Here are some practical ways to reduce holiday season stress.
Remember what it’s all about
Ultimately, Christmas is about Jesus and the miracle of Emmanuel: God with us. It’s easy to get lost in the busyness and craziness of it all. If you find yourself swept away in the Christmas chaos, then take a moment and remember Emmanuel. Christmas is the time when God became human, born of a virgin, to reveal to us the Father. That is what it is all about.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means “God with us”.
The holidays do not have to be perfect or exactly the same as last year. Traditions and rituals need to adapt as families change and grow. Choose a few to keep and be open to making new ones. If your adult children or relatives cannot visit you, find new ways to celebrate together, such as meeting virtually via video call. Even if your holiday plans are different this year, there are still ways to celebrate.
Prepare ahead of time
Once you have your holiday schedule planned, make time for shopping and baking. Plan your menus first and then make a list to help prevent last-minute shopping for forgotten ingredients. Ask for help with meal preparation and cleaning up – there’s no reason you should do it all.
Maintain a budget
Decide how much money you can spend on gifts and food before you go shopping. Then stick to your spending plan. Don’t try to buy happiness with a flood of presents. Consider the following alternatives:
• make a charitable contribution in someone’s honor
• make your own gifts
• begin a gift exchange with your family
• resist the urge of spontaneous spending
Set aside disagreements
Relationships can be the source of some tension over the holiday period. Accept family and friends as they are, even if they don’t meet all of your expectations. Set aside complaints until a more appropriate time to discuss them. And be patient if others become upset or distressed when something goes wrong. They’re probably feeling the effects of holiday stress as well.
With the pressure to see family, we can sometimes miss out on spending time with those people who are life-giving to us. Make sure you schedule time with your friends – perhaps a winter walk or a quiet evening together where you can just be yourself. Value your time at church and the your spiritual family during the holiday season. Lean on them for support if family time is difficult for you, ask for their prayers and enjoy worshipping with them.
If Christmas is a lonely or isolating time for you, seek out community, church or other social events for comfort and companionship. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is another excellent way to lift your spirits and broaden your circle of friends.
Maintain your healthy habits
Don’t let the holidays turn into a free for all. Over-indulgence exacerbates your stress and guilt. Consider the following suggestions:
• eat a healthy snack before holiday meals to avoid overindulging in sweets, cheese or beverages
• when you’re not entertaining, make yourself a light and nutritious meal
• get enough sleep
• make regular physical activity a part of your daily routine
• practice deep breathing exercises
Be aware of how the information culture can cause undue stress, and adjust your time spent reading news and using social media as needed.
Take a break
You may feel resentful and overwhelmed when you say yes and should say no. Your friends and colleagues will understand if you cannot participate in every project or activity. If you cannot say no when your boss requests that you work overtime, try to remove something else from your schedule to compensate for the lost time.
Set aside some time for yourself. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may be enough to recharge your batteries. Find something that helps you relax by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring your inner calm.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.
If you require professional assistance, seek it
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings persist, consult your doctor or a mental health professional.
For more helpful content on working through anxiety and living in the peace of God, why not download the Glorify App?