Christmas is one of the most anticipated times of the year, a season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, take time to bless others, enjoy Christmas traditions, spend time with friends and loved ones, and so much more.
Let’s be real, though. Often the peace, the joy, and all that we long for as we anticipate Christ’s birth get lost in the shuffle of, well, the shuffle. Christmas joy can easily be replaced with Christmas stress as we try to pack into our already busy lives decorating, shopping, baking, caroling, wrapping, cookie making, card writing, traveling, fighting traffic, church services, work parties, family parties, school parties, etc. Add to that other stressors such as the financial stress that comes with gift giving, relationship stress within families, and sickness that doesn’t get put on hold for the holidays and suddenly the joy of Christmas is replaced with STRESS. And this stress can have a long-lasting impact on our bodies, our souls, our spirits and our relationships.
It probably won’t surprise you that…
- A study published in Circulation shows that cardiac deaths are highest on Dec. 25, followed by Dec. 26 and New Year’s day.
- According to the American Psychiatric Association (and this data was from 2006!) http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/women-stress.aspx
- Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season, have a harder time relaxing during the holidays, are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.
- During the holidays people in the United States are much more likely to say they behave in sedentary ways, like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress. Many individuals engage in comfort eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels.
On a positive note, the APA survey also found that for most people in our country the New Year offers hope and a reminder that there is always opportunity for change and self-improvement. In the New Year, most individuals would like to improve their health or lose weight, get their finances in order, or improve their relationships with family or a significant other. I believe with all of my heart that our hope is not in the New Year. How long do our resolutions really last anyway? Our hope is in Christ, who loves us and desires us to be well- soul, spirit and body- right now in the midst of it all. The easiest thing to do over the holidays is to ignore our health, telling ourselves, “ It’s the holiday season. I’ll start over in January.” Believe me, I’ve been there one too many times.
This year let’s choose a better way by choosing not to give up on our health. Instead, let’s make it one of our holiday priorities. God wants us to be whole, and He will show us the way, step by step. When we are well, we are better able to love, care for and serve those we love. Now that’s a gift worth giving. http://www.faithandhealthconnection.org/the_connection/spirit-soul-and-body/wholeness-biblical-and-christian-perspective/
Making Our Desire a Reality
The thought of adding wellness to the list of holiday ‘to dos’ can feel so overwhelming, unrealistic and impossible, so much so that the temptation might be to give up before even starting. But what if we decide to focus on a just a few decisions that we can make, or even just one, that will move us in the direction of the wellness we so desire. Like a snowball effect, our many small decisions over time will, over time, build upon themselves, leading to big changes in our lives.
Listed below are some ideas, some places to start, that I hope you will find helpful. Each begins with the letter P, for peace, which is the opposite of the stress that we don’t need or desire. I will be reminding myself of these Ps each day, and inviting God to direct my steps in the midst of my Christmas busyness.
Ps for peace, not stress this Christmas season
Focus on what really matters. Make Christ your first priority. To help organize your other priorities, take time to identify six areas of your life that demand your attention during the holidays. Then, list them in order of priority. Keep a visual image of your priorities in an area you will see often as a reminder for you as you think, pray and plan.
Invite the Lord into your days.
My prayer: Lord, we desire to have a joyful Christmas and we want to stay well through the hustle and bustle of this season. Help us to identify the things that threaten to steal our joy this Christmas and do what needs to be done to prevent this from happening. Remind us of what’s truly important when we begin to feel caught up in the materialism and the pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Help us to slow down enough to think and to plan now, before the whirlwind begins. We know that a little planning goes a long way and will help us to keep stress levels down. Help us each day to seek you first, trusting that you will give us everything we need. Infuse us with your love and grace, Lord, and show us who we can bless this season with a touch of Christmas love. Amen.
A little preparation goes a long way. A great place to start is by making a holiday dump list. Simply take a piece of paper and spend a good chunk of time dumping all of your Christmas thoughts – your to dos, to gets, to gos, to gives, etc. onto it. Getting it all out can actually help to bring focus to your cluttered mind. Once you’ve done this, you can use this big picture as a starting point as you prioritize and plan each item into your days and weeks. Keep your list of priorities in mind as you plan, and remember Matthew 6:33, which reminds you to seek first the Kingdom of God above all else trusting that He will give you everything you need.
Press the pause button each day by taking the time for short breathers. They are so important. Also, it’s extremely important to decide from the start not to burn the candle from both ends by getting up earlier and staying up later in the name of getting it all done. Choosing not to sleep will backfire on you! Studies have shown that lack of sleep negatively impacts your mood and state of mind, leads to decreased focus and motivation, makes you less inclined to exercise, more inclined to eat more and drink more, and makes you less focused and efficient during the day. Who wants all that??!!!
PLAY OUT THE TAPE
Before making decisions, play out the tape in your mind and ask yourself, if I do this/eat this/say yes to this then ____________. If I don’t do this/eat this/say yes to this then _____________. Challenge yourself to say yes to healthy decisions and no to unhealthy ones, not perfectly, but more often than not.
Psalm 92:1-2 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
I love what Ann Voskamp says about thanks:
“If gratitude is an antidote for anxiety…
and giving thanks is a real cure for stress —
why relegate thanksgiving to a holiday when giving thanks can revolutionize our whole lives?”
I encourage you to read her entire blog post on the topic of thanksgiving in the midst of stress, called, “Because Thanksgiving is more than a holiday.”
As for praising through song, simply let Christmas music fill your home and your mind. Think about what the lyrics of each song mean. Find a Christmas playlist on YouTube and listen to it while you do your daily tasks. I’ve linked a few Christmas songs throughout this post for you to enjoy.
Have fun, laugh, and enjoy family. This one’s admittedly the hardest one for me to do in the midst of my daily to dos, and it’s high on my list of priorities this month. You can be praying for me in this area 🙂
In the spirit of fun, here’s a fun version of Joy to the World by Pentatonix.
PAY IT FORWARD
What a gift we celebrate this Christmas- the gift of Christ. For God so loved us all that he gave us his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life! (John 3:16). God loves us so much and this season, may you receive that love and, in turn, share the love and light of Christ with others. Little things mean so much. A letter. A phone call. A kind gesture. Reaching out to someone that God puts on your heart.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and blessed Christmas season.