This time of year, it’s so easy to feel more stressed than blessed. Overwhelmed by all the extra commitments and responsibilities. Anxious, hassled, frazzled.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
It’s true that some things are out of our control… life happens, even at the holidays. Maybe even especially at the holidays. But there are some things you can do to have a happier, less-stressed holiday:
5. Honor God by honoring the body He’s given you — take good care of it. Most of us are tempted to skip our healthy routines over the holidays, but this is when we need them most! Nutritionists say that weary, tired feeling may actually be dehydration… so drink lots of water. And that crankiness may be low blood sugar — so stock up on healthy snacks you can grab on the go. Eat light and healthy when you can, so the damage isn’t so bad when you can’t. And every chance you get, walk! Don’t think of it as exercise; think of it as time to unwind and clear your head — or time to pray. When you get to the mall, do a few laps before you start shopping. It seems counter-intuitive, but you’ll actually have more energy, more strength, more clarity and focus. Get your rest — and you’ll get more done in less time the next day. Keep your drs appointments and if you feel something coming on, take Barney Fife’s advice: nip it in the bud! If you don’t have time to go to the doctor, you really don’t have time to be sick.
4. Make a list of must-haves / must-dos / must-sees. What are the traditions that mean the most to you? What do you need to feel like it’s really Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s? Are there special books, movies, music, foods, games, activities? Brainstorm with your family — because we all have our own list. (I always take my nephews to see the Nutcracker Ballet. My sister-in-law likes to watch White Christmas. My dad wants to drive around and look at Christmas lights. My mom — and now my sister — make my great-grandmother’s shortbread.) Put these things on the calendar NOW so that you make sure you do them!
3. Learn to say NO. Don’t agree to do things you don’t want to do, things you can’t do, things you don’t have time to do. Don’t rob your family and yourself of the joy of this season by overcommitting, overscheduling, overdoing — even over-volunteering. Know your limits and just say no. or “No, thank you.” At the most, “Sorry, but I just can’t.” But that’s it! Resist the urge to offer excuses or explanations. They’ll only argue with you and try harder to twist your arm! (Desperation makes people do crazy things. If you’re the one charged with drumming up volunteers, you can become a guilt-tripping arm-twister too!) This year, respect the boundaries you and your family have set for yourselves. And the boundaries of others.
2. Learn to say YES! Yes to interruptions to your schedule that turn out to be divine appointments. Yes to teachable moments with your kids or grandkids. Yes to “serendipity” — the sudden little bursts of joy in your day that come from unexpected opportunities, adventures, and blessings. Yes to new experiences, new traditions, new ways to love and give and share. You may never be able to create — or recreate — a perfect holiday, but that doesn’t mean this one can’t be very special in its own way.
1. Choose what is better! (Luke 10:43 ) Don’t let a perfect holiday or a perfect home or a perfect reputation as the “hostess with the most-est” become an idol to you. No woman on her deathbed has ever said, “I wish I’d done more dishes! I wish I’d vacuumed more! I wish I’d finally mastered Martha Stewart’s method for folding fitted sheets!” Not even “I wish I’d sent more Christmas cards or volunteered to help with more church programs and pageants!” Focus on relationships, focus on people. Love them, cherish them, spend time with them. The dishes can wait. And be sure you make time for the most important relationship of all — your relationship with Jesus, the Reason for all of our Seasons.
It’s so tempting to skip your quiet time when your schedule gets too full. But this is when you need His love, His grace, His peace, His strength the most! Make the time, even if it’s only five minutes here and there. Keep a Bible or devotional in the car or in your purse, so you can take advantage of the time you spend in line. Count your blessings in a journal or on Facebook. When you hear Christmas hymns (aka carols) in the grocery store, sing the words in your heart — or out loud! — in a spirit of worship.
A few years ago, Renee Hirsch created a beautiful description of being a “Super Woman vs. Abiding Woman.” A woman who abides is a woman who not only survives but thrives, a woman who purposefully enters into and experiences the presence of Jesus as she goes about her day. With her permission, I’ve reworded it and expanded on it just a little. Take a few moments to reflect on these truths:
Ultimately if you can remember who you are — and whose you are — you’ll have much happier, less-stressed holiday!