‘Tis the season to be merry… and stressed. Sometimes holiday emotions make us feel more tangled up than lights on the Christmas tree, no matter how we feel them.
For those who aren’t fans
of the Christmas season, the hustle, bustle and emotional rustle that
this time of year brings on can elicit overwhelming feelings, including
irritability, loneliness, and even depression.
For those who love the
holiday season, those same feelings can still secretly weave themselves
into our spirits, as busyness and expectations take their toll on our
of opinion, Christmas can be a season of stress and anxiety, leaving us
feeling as messy as ripped up wrapping paper strewn around the living
room on Christmas morning. The holidays often bring on a flood of
heightened emotions which vary in intensity from person to person, and
often result in dangerous stress levels.
When holiday stress is
piled on top of regular stressors, some people even resort to harmful
methods of coping – such as over indulging in food, alcohol, caffeine or
even drugs. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that
nearly all women in the U.S, experience such heightened stress during
the holidays that their health is put at risk. Studies also showed that
41% of women use food, and 28% of women use alcohol to curb their pain
during the holidays.
In addition to potential
harm to our health, these coping methods can result in additional stress
long after the Christmas decorations have been put away. So regardless
of what it is about the holidays that makes us feel anxious, holiday
stress is not to be ignored.
Fortunately, we can
counteract the negative impact of holiday stress by following a few
simple suggestions. Here are 7 strategies to keep in mind to avoid
letting holiday stress steal your joy, squelch your Christmas spirit,
and damage your health.
1. Plan for your stress.
You are probably well
aware of the holiday stressors that push you to the limit, so why wait
until the holidays come around again to face them?
For example, if you know
the task of decorating your home makes you stressed, invite some friends
or family members to help out. If you know that trying to bake goods
for the PTA bake sale makes you feel burdened, give yourself permission
to sit this year out. If a certain family function causes annual chaos,
pray for God’s divine intervention in dealing with family conflict this
year. If searching for the hottest toys makes your head spin each year,
set expectations with your children in advance. If wrapping gifts that
look like they belong under a Christmas tree at Belk’s makes you
stressed, start a new tradition of having kids or grandkids wrap the
presents, then treasure the experience, not the appearance, of the
When we are proactive in
making plans for how to deal with common holiday stressors, we are less
likely to react in the same stressed-out way that we always have. Ponder
the things you know make you stressed, and plan a better way to
approach them this year, so the same holiday stress doesn’t repeat its
2. Pursue a positive attitude.
Whether the holidays are
our favorite time of year or not, we still need to pursue a loving,
Godly attitude in the midst of the chaos. If we let crowds and traffic
put us in a bad mood, we’ll take it out on our family later. If we allow
obligations to stretch us thin, we’ll be too busy to enjoy the season.
If we focus on all the negative aspects the holidays may bring, we will
lose sight of the fact that we are really celebrating the birth of
Our attitudes and our
thoughts will carry us to a destination of a joy, or a destination of
bitterness and grumpiness. If you struggle with a Grinch attitude every
year, ask God to help you pursue a new attitude for this season, and
find real joy in Christ.
3. Purposely get enough sleep.
If you want to be able to
stay in a good mood during the holidays, don’t forget to rest! Sleep
deprivation has a serious negative impact on people’s moods and their
ability to manage even small stressors. Commit to getting to bed at a
decent hour and getting a good night’s rest as often as possible.
4. Party sensibly.
Even though being at
every holiday party we are invited to makes us feel and look like social
butterflies, all that party-going may leave us bound up in a cocoon of
stress. Choose your social events selectively, and only attend those
which are most important to you. Stand in front of a mirror and
rehearse a gentle and polite response to share when someone invites you
to a function that you know will not fit into your schedule.
5. Prepare a routine for the month of December.
Write down your typical
holiday obligations, and set a daily schedule for each day in December
for fulfilling them. This might sound compulsively organized or even
impossible, but it will be time and effort well spent, because good
planning sets the stage for peace.
So, set aside an hour in
November to map out your holiday month to-do’s. Think about all the
things you usually do around the holidays, and jot them down on a list.
Write out your gift list, gift suggestions, budget, social outings,
travel, packing, shopping, babysitting needs, special events that you
cook for, grocery lists, etc.. Then write down a target deadline for
getting those things done.
6. Practice fun.
The holidays are supposed to fun. Why do we let busyness and chaos steal
that fun from our hearts? Think about some ways you can have fun with
your family or friends.
Sometimes the best
entertainment is cost effective, no hassle and stress free! In my
family, we love snuggling on the couch and watching every holiday movie
ever made, while laughing at the same scenes over and over, year after
year. We enjoy watching the new Hallmark channel holiday movies, and a
few of my old-time favorites are Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
(Jim Carey version), and Christmas With the Kranks. We also love riding
around at night looking at Christmas lights in surrounding
neighborhoods, having friends over, and sipping hot chocolate while
decorating our tree and listening to Christmas music.
7. Promote love.
Our inward thoughts will
always drive our outward actions, so if we want to show love during the
holidays to family, friends and total strangers, we first have to focus
on feeling God’s love.
Although every person
faces different adversities in life, we can all enjoy the Christmas
season if we remember that Christmas is really about celebrating God’s
love for us. If we bicker and complain our way through the season, our
holiday spirit will exit quicker than Santa up the chimney. But if we
focus on the fact that we are supposed to be celebrating peace, joy, and
love, our Christmas spirit, our faith, and our love for others will
soar. When our hearts are full of love, it’s hard to be a Grinch.
A little holiday stress
preparation can be the determining factor in whether your holiday is
joy-full, or stress-full - and a stressed-less holiday will usually
lead to a happy holiday!
Today's Blog Post By: Tracie Miles is a
national conference speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Tracie speaks
God's truths to empower and motivate others to depend on Christ in their
everyday lives, and lead them to a place of peace and purpose through
learning to live intentionally for Christ. Tracie is a contributing
writer for Encouragement for Today online devotions that currently touch
over 500,000 lives each day around the world. She is the author of
Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace In Your Chaotic World , and
lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. Learn more
about her book at www.stressedlessliving.com, and visit her at