While most of us love the Christmas season, sometimes all the busyness, activities, and things that must be done put us into overload mode. Stress levels rise, and instead of a joyful season of worshipping Christ our Savior, we become crazy women running to and fro, impatient and frustrated. That sure isn’t my picture of a godly, Christian woman, and I don’t want it to characterize my life during the weeks that are so precious in my year. So how can we take the stress out of the Christmas season?
1. Resting in the Lord
Perhaps the greatest stress reliever is to remember the words of Christ Himself. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When we come to Him, He gives us rest. During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, are we truly coming to Him? Are we continuing in our daily time to worship Him through reading His Word and praying? Are we casting our cares on Him? “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps a peaceful heart or lack of it is an indication of whether we are coming to Him and resting or not.
2. Writing it Down
Write down what you will be doing and want to do during the Christmas season either on a piece of paper, notebook, or your computer. Often stress overwhelms us when our minds are trying to track, manage, remember, and juggle all that needs to be done. Our memory becomes so full of all the “stuff” that we can’t handle it. Computers crash when they overload their memory, and so do we.
When you write it down, relief descends. It is in a safe place to be retrieved and referred to. You don’t have to depend on your mind to remember it. That one simple step may be your ticket to a stress-free Christmas.
The third thing you can do to help relieve holiday stress is to eliminate. Once you have that list to look at, you can determine if there are activities or duties on it that are no longer your priority. Just because you have always done it, doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing it.
What Christmas activities draw your heart to Jesus? Which ones share Him with others? Which ones teach your children to love, teach them that it is better to give than to receive, or teach them to worship Him? Have criteria in mind to help you determine what your Christmas time usage priorities should be.
I think you will find it less stressing and much more enjoyable to focus on the activities for Christmas that bring you the greatest joy than to try to do everything that is available. Remember the words of the angels to the shepherds? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). While the global application of this verse is the peace that Christ brings to each sinful man who receives Him as Savior, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t also ongoing peace in my heart. That peace lets me have joy each day as I anticipate celebrating Christ’s birth.
I would rather have a peaceful heart and do half as many Christ-related traditions and activities than to do the full measure of them feeling and acting stressed. I expect my family would vote for that as well.
Next you will want to take the list of Christmas activities and duties that have been prioritized and pared down, and write out steps that are needed to accomplish each one. Perhaps there are supplies to be purchased and gathered. Maybe a date should be put on the calendar to reserve the time. It could be that others are to be invited. What exactly should happen so that this activity is accomplished?
When I have steps written down for my holiday activities, they are much easier to achieve. With available time, I look at these lists, and I choose what I will tackle during that time frame.
5. Dedicating Time
I can have the best-prioritized list of Christmas activities, including the plan to getting them done, but if I don’t have any time to do them, I can assure you that I will feel stressed. How does a busy mom find time for doing more than she currently does in her normal daily life?
I would suggest starting with just one hour per day in the month of December for Christmas preparations—a specific hour that you know you can consistently be committed to keeping. If you are a homeschool mom, shorten your school day by one hour for the month of December, and use that extra time for what you want to do to get ready for Christmas. You will be pleasantly surprised with the progress you can make on things like Christmas cards or letters, online gift shopping, gift wrapping, meal planning, and make-ahead baking in just one hour.
Seeing your progress and checking off what is done—those are wonderful ways to relieve stress and bring peace to your heart. As you get closer to Christmas, you will know what one hour a day has done for you and increase or decrease the time according to where you are in relation to your goals.
For homeschool moms, I would suggest taking at least the last two weeks of December totally off school. However, be careful to have a plan in place for how you will use that time so it doesn’t fritter away.
6. Practicing Gratitude
You can let each stressor you face eat at your mind, robbing you of your joy and peace. However, you can also trade away the stress by doing one very powerful thing: cultivate gratitude! For example, if gift shopping stresses you, thank the Lord for the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ. Be grateful for the finances to purchase gifts or the supplies to make them. Each time the stress wants to return, praise God and thank Him for Jesus and His bountiful provision for you. Find something you can thank God for with any and every stress that wants to rear its ugly head so that you change the curse into a blessing. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Personally, I don’t like to feel stressed, and I don’t like the person I become when I am stressed. Christmas is the last time of year when I want to be a stressed woman. This Christmas season I choose to set aside Christmas stress and pick up the joy, peace, and rest of the Savior, Whom I celebrate each and every day.
Here are four resources that I recommend to help you with holiday de-stressing or any-time-of-the-year de-stressing: