Food, family, and festivities rush us through Thanks-mas into next year’s calendar. We fuss and bustle, scurrying from one restless day to another in an attempt to “do” the holidays properly. Or survive them, at least. Expectations and expenses squeeze us until our temples throb from the pressure. The harder we strive to check all the boxes, the more obstacles daunt our efforts. Illness, fatigue, and unexpected requirements strike at our heels. No matter how hard we try to please everyone, disappointments crash in like storm waves. We seem doomed to fail the standards posted on HGTV, Pinterest, and those Norman Rockwell family portraits.
Stress seems to wind itself like a barbed wire garland around the holidays. The more we strive, the tighter our bonds constrict around us. Soon the season meant for celebration instead crushes us under the weight of anxiety or despair. “Happy” greetings sting our ears. We return them with forced grins which belie our struggle to survive.
Is it possible to prevent the season from strangling us?
Not only can we trim the holiday stress, but we can also restore joy to our souls. Here are five tips to renew your spirits during the most wonderful time of the year.
1. Set Priorities.
- Prioritize elements with long-term and spiritual value.
- Don’t allow the “what” to eclipse the “why.”
- Consider the consequences if you omit something. Set draining or unnecessary activities at the bottom of your list.
- Delegate to equip others and free yourself.
- Determine who you want to be this year. Allow nothing to rob your soul or corrupt your ability to bless others.
2. Set Boundaries.
- Know your limits and commit to living within them. Sketch out your threshold with regard to physical, financial, emotional, and time resources. Set a guideline for how much you can handle and decide ahead of time not to exceed it.
- Determine what you’re willing to do AND what you’re not willing to do. There could be push-back at first, but setting boundaries offers others an opportunity to be their best self, too. Healthy people will support your decision to be healthy.
- Stop enslaving yourself to others’ emotional states. When you accept the job of ensuring others’ happiness, you’ve doomed yourself to fail. No one can control others’ emotions. Because everyone imposes different expectations, it’s impossible to live without disappointing someone. Jesus Christ did not attempt to please everyone. Your job is to honor God’s will, not the whims of every person in your life.
- Enabling is not helping.
- Respect others’ boundaries. Love neither suffocates nor controls, but blesses without forcing dependency. Consider the open hand with which you’d offer nectar to a butterfly.
3. Restore Meaning.
- Renew your personal definition of holidays as holy days.
- Remember to focus on your Christ-ordained identity as a human being, not a human “doing.”
- Infuse every day with intentional and frequent prayer.
- Set daily inspirational messages focused on thankfulness and advent.
- Share little things with great love (one extra meal item to give, handwritten cards, a toll for a driver behind you, an hour of volunteering for the hungry or homebound, e.g.).
- Smiles and hugs warm the heart in both directions. Radiate them with extravagant generosity.
- Keep God first, people a close (and related) second, and allow the rest to fill in as the Spirit permits.
- Don’t allow hurry or stress to blind you from wonder. Schedule time for moments of awe regarding the season’s true meaning and reflection upon Scripture.
4. Guard the Margins.
- Leave white space in your calendar for the unexpected. This time of year, unforeseen demands upon your time are more likely than ever. If you allow room for them, the events have less chance to cause upheaval.
- Monitor your thoughts. Weed out negativity’s parasites and take time out to replant truth, hope, and inspiration into your mind.
- Allow time to breathe, refuel, and center upon Christ. You cannot offer water from an empty pitcher.
- In solitary and fellowship activities, be sure to include moments of renewal and recharging.
5. Keep an Eye on Health.
- Sleep. Zombies are for another time of year, so let’s all try to stay bright and alert this season.
- Nourish your body and enjoy the feasts even more.
- Get creative about including exercise in your schedule. How can you add a few extra steps? Use resistance bands while doing another activity. Stretch when waiting or between tasks.
- Discharge stress with cardio workouts.
Write your aggravation on a slip of paper and put it into your shoe. After the high-energy release, submit the issue to God through prayerful meditaion.
What are your favorite ways to trim holiday stress? Share them with us. I look forward to reading your comments. Have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving!