Itís the most wonderful Ė and stressful Ė time of the year. The holiday season is filled with places to go, gifts to buy, people to see and other things that go along with the Christmas season. If weíre not careful, we can get so busy that we neglect to take the time to actually enjoy and think about what Christmas really is. We are reminded of it in a Christmas play or some heartwarming Christmas movie but do we actually see it for ourselves?
Stress has become a byproduct of the holiday season. As if we donít have enough stress the rest of the year! Personally I think the stress factor doubles during this time of the year. I donít know what it is. Maybe itís the traffic, the crowds or a gift list that is longer than the money available to purchase gifts. Whatever it is, it can really drive you a bit crazy if you let it. Right now as I work on this article I find my mind drifting to someone else I need to add to my Christmas card list or if I should even take this time to work on this article. Why has holiday stress become a traditional part of the season?
One thing that pressures us during this season is the ardment of advertisements about buying gifts. Materialism seems to rule the holidays. We think that buying the right gift or getting the right gifts will bring joy and that ďholiday cheerĒ. It seems that we have short-term memories when it comes to the actual joy that gifts bring. Try to sit down and make a short list of the Christmas gifts you have received the last two years. It becomes difficult doesnít it? The best things in life arenít things. Yet we are brainwashed by advertisers and media that things are what make the season. Christ is forgotten in all the rush.
Iím not trying to be a Scrooge here. I enjoy the Christmas holiday season but I do not like the rush, stress and expectations that the season brings. In fact, I got on my soapbox early this year when a local radio station began playing Christmas songs non-stop one week BEFORE Thanksgiving. I think thatís a little much. Why even have a Thanksgiving? Letís just go straight to Christmas. In fact, letís just start it on Halloween next year?
So how can we lower the stress level during the holidays? Hereís a few things to try:
DONíT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE - If you wait to do all of your Christmas cards, shopping and plans until the week before Christmas, you are asking for major stress. Tackle each project in small chunks. You donít have to do all of your shopping in one day or all of your Christmas cards at one time. Pace yourself.
REMEMBER THOSE THAT ARENíT AS FORTUNATE Ė There are many people who will be stressed, or even depressed, because they canít celebrate Christmas like others. If you know of someone who has lost their job, a widow or widower having their first Christmas without their spouse or an inmate in prison. Reach out to these and instead of being stressed, try to bless someone.
DONíT GET CAUGHT UP IN MATERIAL THINGS Ė As much as we are overwhelmed with it, try to keep your focus on Christmas, not things. If people get upset because of a gift, then they have their priorities wrong anyway.
FORGIVENESS IS A GREAT GIFT - If you have unforgiveness toward a friend or relative, grant them a personal pardon. Let it go. This can be a great gift and a wonderful way to remember a Christmas. Youíll remember it more than any material gift.
You wonít find anything about stress in the beatitudes but in the beatitudes you will find keys to happiness and ways to lower stress during the holidays. (Matthew 5:1-12) The Beatitudes are the quality of life that God intended for us from the beginning. The word blessed can also be translated as happy but it is more than just an emotional feeling. It is a state of mind. The closer we are to Christ, the more we will experience the blessings of God.