The last couple of years have been extraordinarily stressful, but the holiday season just seems to elevate the stress level to mountainous proportions. What if I told you, that we have control over much of our stress, and how we respond sets the tone for our holidays? That begs the question: what things can we let go of this holiday season? Christmas stress. How do we get rid of it? How do we survive the holiday season with a healthy perspective? How can we have a stress-free holiday season? Read on, my friend.
How do I survive this holiday season with a healthy perspective?
Frequently stress arises when we begin to worry about losing control. Worry, fear, and anxiety are so often a misappropriation of our attentional resources. The secret to surviving this holiday season and living in the peace Jesus came to give us, rests in our willingness to surrender. Surrender our expectations of others, of ourselves and of God. A tall order? Absolutely. I’ve heard it said that “Man makes his plans and God laughs.” But in all seriousness, Scripture reminds us in Proverbs 16:9 NLT that “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
How do I get rid of Christmas stress?
The key to getting rid of Christmas stress truly lies in letting go of control. Anxiety often arises within us when we begin to feel like things are out of control. Our mind often spirals down the slippery slope of worry, fear, anxiety, and discontentment when we begin to think of all the “what if?” questions we don’t have answers for. Those are the things we need to let go of and surrender to God to handle/ We weren’t meant to carry those heavy burdens. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Worry is really just a misappropriation of our trust, giving it to a counterfeit that never satisfies. Focusing on our circumstances and the things we cannot control is like telling God that He isn’t big enough to handle anything that comes our way.
What are some things to let go of this holiday season?
The key to a more peaceful (and enjoyable) holiday season rests in letting go of what we can’t control and embracing what we can. So, what are some things to let go of this holiday season?
- Negative news and social media—the more time we spend focusing on the negative news and circumstances in life, the more stressed we will become because almost all of it is out of our control. Perhaps consider taking a month-long news and social media fast to help you refocus on the positives all around you. Wonder where to begin? My friend Wendy Speake has a great book, The 40-Day Social Media Fast: Exchange Your Online Distractions for Real-Life Devotion, that is a perfect place to start.
- Expectations—expectations are often what lead us down the slippery slope into disappointment, discouragement, and even anger or regret. We all have expectations: How will your child or spouse respond to the gift you thought was perfect? How will the dinner guests get along when that one uncle (we all have them) brings up politics or some other controversial topic? How we envision the picture-perfect Christmas card or table setting to look. And on and on. Yet, if we let go of expectations, we also let go of the perfect setup for disappointment and it leaves us free to enjoy the holiday and those we choose to spend it with.
- The actions of others—we can almost never control the actions (or words) of others, yet we can choose our response. If we know that a certain relative tends to drink too much spiked eggnog, we can choose to offer a different beverage. Or if a certain topic always spurs a family debate over the holiday meal, perhaps declare a “no-go” zone for that topic during the meal. Even if these best set intentions don’t prevent the action you fear, respond in love and instead consider complimenting your guest on their ability to be bold in the face of disagreement/
- The Motives of Others—the holidays (or any particularly stressful time) have a way of stirring up individual differences in a way like no other. Past hurts often get projected onto current circumstances, and unsolved rivalries often carry over from childhood into adulthood where grown siblings act like children again. Let go of ascribing motives to others’ behavior and instead remember that “hurt people hurt people.” This allows you to respond in compassion even when the behavior of others isn’t what you would wish or prefer.
How can I stop stressing over Christmas?
The answer to how can I stop stressing over Christmas is simple, but not necessarily easy: focus on what you do have control over instead of all the things you don’t. Here are some of the things we can control and can/should focus on:
- Turning off the news—the holiday season is supposed to be one of the most joyful and joy-filled times of the year, so why would we want to take away from that joy by turning our attention to the negative and sensational? One of the best things my family ever did was turn off the news.
- Limiting social media—social media can be a positive tool in connecting people, but it can also contribute to discontent, discouragement, and comparison when we see the seemingly perfect lives in micro-tidbits online. It can be tempting to only post the picture-perfect times in our lives, but that’s exactly what we end up comparing our squatty tree, deflated pie, or tearful photos to if we’re not careful. Limit your time on social media this holiday season. I guarantee you’ll never think “I wish I had spent more time on social media!”
- Your own positive attitude—no one else can decide to have a positive attitude but you. We can choose to have a positive attitude despite whatever circumstance we are facing. But that will be easier to do when we choose to surround ourselves with other positive people.
- Your kindness and gratitude—The degree to which you are kind to others (even those who you think don’t deserve it) and grateful for what you have is in your direct control. Scripture commands us to, “Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). It doesn’t say to be thankful for every circumstance but in every circumstance.
- Maintaining self-care (eating well, exercising, getting enough rest)—the stresses of the holiday tax our time and our energy as much as our wallet, but if we don’t prioritize maintaining self-care before, during, and after the holidays, we will subject ourselves to greater degrees of stress and decreased ability to cope appropriately with the stress. Commit to parking further away from the stores’ front door so you get extra steps in each day. Or commit to starting off each day with a high protein, nutrient rich breakfast, and plenty of water throughout the day. Perhaps set a “cut off” time for all your daily activities to ensure an adequate night’s rest.
- Having fun, smiling, and laughing—children laugh on average 100 times a day, but most adults laugh less than a dozen. One of the best stress relievers is laughter and a good sense of humor. As you’re shopping for others, take time to look at the silly cards on sale for birthdays, retirement, etc. Watch a funny movie while you wrap gifts. Smile at strangers just because.
- Working toward your goals and dreams—the holidays are a stressful time when it can often feel like we’re only doing for others. Ignoring your goals and dreams doesn’t help. Make sure that you’re still doing something each week to move you forward in your dreams and goals so that when the new year starts, you can look back and see the progress you made which will give you momentum as you start the new year!
The thing is, we really have very little control in this life. We often live with the myth that we are in control, but there is so much that is out of control. But the comforting truth is that nothing takes God by surprise, and He remains in control. He would love nothing more than to be your focus this holiday season, and in return, for you to receive His peace.
I’d love to hear how you are coping with the stress of the holiday season and what helps you in the comments below.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
A central theme throughout this post about recharging yourself is rest. Rest is one of those things that for years I dismissed the importance of until I was forced to completely rest. I find in this busy world, most of us either don’t prioritize rest or don’t understand how to rest in a way that is most helpful to us individually. That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about a valuable resource to help you.
I’m one of the guest speakers for the Living Sabbath 2022 Summit, an online 3-day summit happening January 7-9, 2022 with over 25 expert speakers to help us learn to rest better in order to be our optimal selves in the new year.
This summit would also make a great gift for a friend or loved one who leads a fast-paced life and may not even know they need to rest.
Consider gifting it to a friend and then you can be each other’s accountability partner as you endeavor to rest well.
You can get tickets right now for this LIVE 3-Day retreat for as low as $15. Would you join me?
Get all the info today and Register at LivingSabbath.com.
But, to get the special pricing, you need to Register by December 24th. Tickets are available now, and there’s a way to join for every budget!