Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. —1 Peter 5:7, NKJ
Stress is a problem for many people year round, but there is something about the holidays that tends to cause an increase in stress for some. It makes sense because, well, there’s a lot more to be stressed about.
Dealing with travelling , too many meals where we eat too much, spending more money than we typically do, being around family more than we usually are … it all adds up to negative stress, also called distress. But, what is a person to do about all this stress? Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t set your expectations too high. Rid yourself now of the illusion that your holiday season will be perfect. While the mantra is “peace on earth,” there surely won’t be peace everywhere you go. Traffic will abound. Irritated shoppers will surround. And there is no doubt that at least a moment or two of your holidays will be spent frustrated about something or the other. Just accept it.
2. Speaking of acceptance, accept that things won’t go perfectly as planned. Even if you have what you believe to be realistic expectations, things still won’t be completely smooth. And sometimes those things are beyond our control. For example, I recall one Christmas when a Christmas gift I was hiding in my car was stolen. I was so disappointed, but I had to accept that the gift was not the focus of the season. And the person who did not receive that gift was okay with it too.
3. Don’t over-do. Instead, focus on a few areas that you can really enjoy. For example, it’s likely that most churches in your area will have Christmas events. Don’t try and go to all of them. Instead, choose one or two that you are most interested in, and plan on those. Same with gift giving and charity work. You can’t do it all or give it all, so decide now what is most important and focus your time and attention on those things.
4. Along those same lines, make sure that you schedule down time. Nights where you and your family have no plans except to spend time at home. Maybe that will involve sitting in front of a fire drinking hot cocoa, watching a Christmas movie, decorating cookies or a tree, or simply sitting quietly while listening to your favorite Christmas tunes or reading that cherished Christmas book.
Whether or not you live alone, you can benefit from time alone. If you live alone and feel lonely during this time of year, intentionally plan to spend time with others. Even if you are away from family and / or friends, you can get involved in a local church or volunteer to surround yourself with others.
And, above all, spend time focusing on what really matters this season. We will talk more about family (and dealing with that stress) and “the reason for the season” over the next couple of weeks.
By the way, all of these tips can also help with managing holiday blues. If you find that your feelings seem more severe, I encourage you to seek out professional counseling. Find someone local here: http://www.aacc.net/resources/find-a-counselor/.