She felt a suffocating presence, but unable to detect its origin, she pushed through. Holiday shopping, baking, dinners and parties—it all seemed important. After all, people were counting on her. If she didn’t come through, what would happen to Christmas?
Has holiday stress absconded with your peace? It’s probably more a matter of acknowledgment than possibility, especially with the heightened stress of the past 2 years.
Holiday Stress is disproportionately felt by women… 44 percent of women report an increase of stress during the holidays versus 31 percent of men… Women have a harder time relaxing and are more likely to take on all of the tasks associated with family celebrations, such as shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Holiday Stress Report
If this is you, may I offer 2 words? It’s OK.
Who wouldn’t feel stressed with the societal pressures of picture-perfect homes and families?
Can we alleviate this stress, or are we stuck in the perpetuity of holiday stress? Seeking solutions can even be stressful, but I discovered a few practical strategies that helped rekindle the beauty and simplicity of the season.
Feeling time-famished causes stress on a normal day, but add lengthy holiday to-do lists, and it rises exponentially.
…Ask not how time is treating you; ask how you are treating time. Some of us pause to do the things we want while others let pressures and demands dictate how they spend time. You always have a choice to take charge of your life when you ask whether time is using you or you’re using time. Time Famine
What does this look like practically? Start by making a list of typical holiday events and traditions as a family. Which are most sacred to each member?
- Tree trimming and gift wrapping
- Holiday parties
- Visiting family
- Exchanging gifts
- Caroling and hayrides
- Watching favorite holiday movies together
- Meals with family and friends
- Holiday shows, school plays
- Christmas Eve service
- Reading Christmas stories together
- Baking holiday treats for friends and neighbors
- Serving others
The list becomes lengthy in a hurry. Next, make a list of your family holiday values.
- Helping others
- Celebrating Jesus
- Gift giving
- Activities and events
- Holiday travel
- Visiting family
Something interesting happens here—proportions declare family focus.
What’s the ratio of traditions vs travel vs—you get the picture. I learned a great deal from this practice.
Finally, if you discovered your holiday activities are not in line with your values, make a list of non-negotiables and commit to some changes.
1. Has the scale tipped to consumerism?
Create new traditions as a family to focus on the reason for the season:
Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas. Dale Evans
2. Are you overcommitted to events and activities?
As a family, discuss what activities create joy and lightness of heart? Which are burdensome? Discuss how to simplify—strengthening that “no” muscle—so you can savor precious moments, focusing on what’s important. Decide what activities to abandon and which to keep.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. Peg Bracken
3. Overspending an issue?
Commit to a budget and simplify gift giving. It’s a great opportunity to discuss how to honor your vision and mission as a family. Let your children get creative with you!
- 3 gifts each in honor of the Wisemen
- Draw names with extended family
- A vacation instead of dozens of presents
It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. Mother Theresa
4. Is perfection over presence a struggle?
Gather ‘round the dinner table and decide which decorations, activities and events make the holidays special and which feel heavy.
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.
5. Have the holidays become more about me than we?
Gather for a family meeting to discuss practical ways to change the focus and give more love away.
- Purchase toys for a local organization together
- Bake holiday treats for senior neighbors or firefighters
- Gather a group and sing carols at a nursing home
The joy of brightening other lives becomes for us the magic of the holidays. W.C. Jones.
So back to, “It’s OK.” It’s OK to downsize the holidays. Might it be a little uncomfortable at first? Maybe, but reducing holiday stress and re-centering our family’s focus on what’s most important is a gift to ourselves. Let’s do this together!
The time we recover, the peace we create, and the joy we discover can fill our homes with the wonder and awe the shepherds experienced that first, starry Christmas night.
The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Luke 2:20
If bewildered sheep-herders experienced the miracle of Christmas, we can too!
It’s Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Mother Teresa