On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast, we discussed how to stress less this Christmas. If you missed it, you can listen here (How To Stress Less at Christmas – Episode 88). This episode will be helpful any time of the year but especially now during the holidays when stress seems rampant. I’m blessed to be friends with Debora Coty, author of the Too Blessed to be Stressed series. So I turned to Debora for her advice on how to stress less this Christmas. Here are her thoughts:
By Debora Coty
Once again it’s that most wonderful time of the year. Have you noticed the stress level rising steadily everywhere you go?
We haven’t quite reached melt-your-earrings stress level yet. That’s reserved for two days before Christmas, when you realize that the hideous sweater you’d planned to regift your sister was actually from your mother-in-law and now she, along with the three additional dinner guests she just invited to your house for Christmas dinner, will actually be in attendance to witness firsthand your callous ungratefulness and ineptitude at hiding it.
So off to the mall you go. That horrible, under-parking-spaced, overly Christmas-caroled, garishly decorated, faux-glee-fabricated, nightmarish money-sucking factory bursting at the seams with listless people like you, pathetically wandering list-lessly (as in no list), searching for … for … for anything that doesn’t scream YOU WERE AN AFTERTHOUGHT!
Even my house is feeling the strain. With Stress-Com 4 rapidly approaching, the weightiness of performance pressure is causing my fake hanging poinsettias to jump ship, littering the front flower bed with weirdness.
The fireplace garland refuses to stay on the mantle. It prefers to droop beneath the majestic angel above, making it appear that she has lost her festive bloomers.
Our lawn manger scene is missing Baby Jesus. Again.
The animated plush soul man dressed like a Christmassy “Blues Brothers” dude will NOT stop singing, “I’m a snowwwwww man!” no matter how many times you pound the OFF button.
And yet amid all this hair-tearing craziness, we’re called to reflect on the reason for the season – the Christ child in a manger. Only then can we experience Papa God’s peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) and like Mary, the mother of our Savior, quietly internalize the wonder.
“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19 NIV).
For many of us, Christmas morphs into Stress-mas as we attempt to handle the performance pressure and general mayhem. The spiritual impact of Christ’s birth drowns in our to-do list.
Here are four suggestions – I call them Stress Busters – that I’ve found invaluable in decom-stressing Christmas and freeing myself up to enjoy the joy of the season. I hope they work for you too:
Stress Buster #1: KISS: Keep It Sweet & Simple
Okay, who here (besides me) suffers from calendar constipation? Go ahead and boldly admit if those little squares on your calendar are clogged with activity. Your agenda is overflowing. You feel (as my granny used to say) tight as a tick. Well, that’s calendar constipation, my friend.
And there’s only one surefire way to eliminate calendar constipation: an activity enema!
Yep. Sit down with your constipated calendar and pray for insight, clarity and ruthlessness. Determine your top 3 priorities and postpone all else until January (or … never). Eliminate non-essentials. Flush the guilt! The enemy will use it to attack you.
Stress Buster #2: Budget your time, energy and resources
Decide and abide. Agree with your spouse upon a reasonable, workable budget, including hidden costs like stamps, grocery bills and sneak-up charges. Now stick to your budget.
Offer loving service. Rather than spending money on blouses that don’t fit and ties they don’t need, create love-gift coupons promising a specific service you know loved ones will appreciate – a foot rub, two weeks off dish duty, an hour of yard work … there’s no shelf life in demonstrating your love through customized acts of kindness throughout the year. This gift keeps on giving long after batteries poop out.
Make or bake. Use your special skills to create something uniquely hand-made: needlepoint, framed photos, pinecone potpourri, reindeer antler hat racks – wherever your imagination leads. If you’re culinary gifted, bake what I call “growlers” (something with the Christmassy aroma of cinnamon to induce growling stomachs). Or hey, nothing says Merry Christmas like chocolate crack! You can find this simple, tantalizing recipe – I call it chocolate crack because you can’t stop eating it (even though it’s officially called Chocolate Brickle), in my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, a collection of over 100 stress-free recipes that each takes less than 20 minutes hands-on prep time.
Shop online. Check your favorite sites for free printable coupons, reduced prices and holiday discounts. Many items are cheaper online and gift-wrapping and/or free delivery may be offered.
Stress Buster #3: Look Ahead and Cook Ahead (Food Prep)
Look ahead. Determine your meal and Christmas cookie ingredient needs ahead of time then watch for deals. Be flexible; adjust your menu to accommodate sales. For example, if you find a BOGO on canned peaches, tweak your menu to peach cobbler instead of plum pudding. Little Jack Horner might be disappointed but he’ll get over it.
Cook ahead. When I was a guest on the Chris Fabry Live show discussing this very topic, a professional chef called in and offered this awesome tip: Cook turkey or ham one or two days ahead, refrigerate in all the juices, then simply baste well and reheat before your big dinner. Easy peasy. Frees you up to enjoy the festivities and the house will smell as delectable as if you’d toiled all day over the hot stove.
Many other dishes can be prepared days ahead and refrigerated too. A good example is the Gorgeous Grape Salad (from my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook) –it’s deliciously festive, featuring fresh red and green grapes with sour cream and cream cheese (Christmas colors covered in snow!), sprinkled with a delectable brown sugar nut topping. It will happily hibernate in your fridge for up to 5 days. (I’ll include the recipe at the end – you’re gonna love it!)
One-Stop Schlopping. Simplify meal prep and cleanup by making good use of your slow cooker whenever possible. And prepare dinner-in-one-pan dishes. Goal: Spend your precious time with people, not pots.
Host potluck buffets. Listen, Superwoman, don’t get crazy and try to do everything yourself. Nobody minds bringing along a favorite dish (they figure if they hate everything else at least they’ll like their own.). Do yourself a BIG favor and delegate food prep, set-up and cleanup. I mean really, what else is Cousin Howard good for?
Paper or Plastic? Yes. Both. Snub that dishwasher and buy some pretty but sturdy disposable plates, cups and tableware. My motto: An ounce of unused dish detergent is worth a pound of Christmas cheer.
Stress Buster #4: Make it a Holy-day, not just a holiday.
Turn your car into a rolling cathedral. Play uplifting praise or Christmas music; sing along. Take along a prayer pad so that if you’re cut off by a crazy driver or stuck in a traffic jam, simply pull out your prayer pad and spend productive time praying for people on your list. Be sure to record Papa God’s answers. A wonderful way to morph road rage into prayer and praise.
Grab the popcorn. As a family, watch a quality biblical account of the Christmas story, near the beginning of the season if possible, to keep your focus on Jesus. My fam’s fave is “The Nativity Story” because it’s a lovely rendition plus the Wise Men are a hoot.
Be intentional about prayer. Set aside time to pray every day. Make it a priority to communicate with your Savior and draw from His strength. You’ll need it when Aunt Bertha arrives.
Celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Buy or make a small cake and decorate it as a birthday cake for the babe in the manger. To simplify decorations, we just plunk Baby Jesus from our coffee table creche right on the cake and add candles. Discuss the cake’s symbolism (chocolate cake represents sin; white icing is Jesus’ sinlessness freely given as a sacrifice to cover our sin; red candles represent the blood he shed for us) then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Let the children present blow out the candles.
Another birthday celebration that has worked well for our fam: before opening your gifts, give Baby Jesus a present. Have each person write something in their life they want to give Jesus the following year (boastful pride, hot temper, writing ability, talent for yodeling …) and place it in a box wrapped with a bow. Present it to the holy child in the stable along with the Wise Men’s gifts. A great way to focus on the true and lasting meaning of the Holy-day.
Ask Papa God for His peace. Not the veneer kind the world gives … the deeper kind that transcends all human understanding as found in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
My acronym for PEACE:
A: Aggravation at
C: Christ’s feet,
E: Expectantly (Fully expecting Him to give us His supernatural peace like He promised in the Phil 4 passage … and He truly will!)
Dear friend, I’m guessing there will be many opportunities for you to apply the PEACE acronym this Christmas, with all the aggravations galore – family squabbles, overcooked food, wardrobe malfunctions, epic failure of Christmas Day Plan A … then B … then C …
But you know what? Some of our best memories are made in the midst of chaos.
Just bear in mind, as you navigate Stress-Com 4, that the biggest decom-stressor of all is to remember who is ultimately in control (hint: it’s not you or me!).
Gorgeous Grape Salad
(From Deb Coty’s Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook)
8 oz. sour cream (light OK)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (light OK)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 pound seedless green grapes
1 pound seedless red grapes
6 oz. chopped pecans or walnuts (your choice)
Blend together sour cream, cream cheese, and granulated sugar (use mixer). Fold in (washed/dried) whole grapes and gently stir by hand until well coated. Place in pretty serving bowl. Mix together brown sugar and nuts for topping; sprinkle over grape mixture (don’t mix in). Cover and refrigerate until serving. Can make up to 3 days ahead. (Recipe is easily halved for smaller groups.)
Recommended Resources: (If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
- Ways to Create a More Peaceful Christmas
- Quit Striving for the Picture Perfect Christmas
- When Doing Less is Actually Doing More at Christmas
- How to Relieve Stress This Christmas
- What I Really Want This Christmas
- Content at Christmas
- Free Download: How To Fight Fearful/Anxious Thoughts and Win
- Award-Winning Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises by Dr. Michelle Bengtson
- Breaking Anxiety’s Grip Free Study Guide
- Free 7-Day YouVersion Bible Reading Plan for Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
- Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
- Hope Prevails Bible Study by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
About Debora Coty:
Debora M. Coty is an inspirational speaker, columnist, and award-winning author of over 200 articles and 40+ books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with 1.3 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. Deb is a piano teacher, retired orthopedic occupational therapist (for 36 years) and choco-athlete (the step beyond chocoholic; means she exercises just so she can eat more chocolate). Deb lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband of 42 years and five gregarious grandpals who live nearby. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.