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Blog, Faith, Holidays, Marriage, Parenting, Stress

Blessed: 5 Tips for Holiday Stress

family at Christmas

family at Christmas
Photo source: Shutterfly

The holidays are one of the most anticipated times of the year for families. But they can also be one of the most stressful for some people, with top stressors being lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and dealing with family. 

child opening gift

child opening gift
Photo source: http://www.naomisahlstrom.com/sahlstrom-christmas/

One of my strongest spiritual gifts is giving, and one of my struggles at Christmas is spending too much money on gifts for our kids and our grandkids. I’m not alone in this. Shoppers in the U.S. spend over $1 trillion; in 2018, Americans spent an average of $1,536 during the Christmas season! While it may give me (and others) great joy to buy lots of presents for our children and our grandchildren, other family members, and our friends to show them our love, it also causes us STRESS.

Dealing with family drama and strife, being busier and under more pressure at work, planning and cooking a big family meal, traffic jams, and crowded stores also contribute to our tension.

manger

manger scene
Photo source: Istock

Here are 5 tips to manage and relieve stress during the Christmas holidays:

  1. Bring it back to a Christ-centered Christmas. For Christian believers, Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Yet how often we forget this in the hectic, busy season that retailers use to inundate us with commercialism. Buy this, buy that! More, more, more! Even when we set a budget, or maybe wisely start saving throughout the year to buy our family and friends gifts, we often blow it. A good way to focus on Jesus (other than staying out of stores!) is by reading the Christmas story in the four gospels. Each narrative is told differently. There are also many good children’s books to read at this time of year, which can become a family tradition. Decorating the Christmas tree and your home with an emphasis on Christ, lighting pretty, scented candles, baking cookies for your kids and grandkids (they can help, too!), listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, praying as a couple or a family, volunteer work, giving to those in need, and attending special church services or plays can all help with keeping the holiday Christ-focused.
sugar cookies. Source: Love Grows Wild

sugar cookies
Photo source: Love Grows Wild

2. Take care of yourself. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about the holidays that make me just forget all human reason and completely pig out! It’s like I go crazy temporarily, eating tons of those scrumptious, purple-, red-, and green-colored sugar cookies, chocolates, and of course, the big family meal. I also tend to put exercise on the back burner, forget to drink enough water, and stress myself out trying to buy just the right present for each of our 3 kids and our 6 grandkids, and then wrapping them all in the same night! The holidays are a great time of year to pause. Selah. Intentionally choose to slow down, pray, and reflect. Each year at the end of the year, I set aside time to pray, journal, and prepare for the coming year. Make sure that despite the busyness of the season, you’re staying hydrated with plenty of water (not just Starbucks’ yummy, holiday coffees!), eating healthy, moving your body to get exercise, getting enough sleep, and de-stressing, such as with a hot bubble bath with softly-glowing candles.

Amazon gift card

Amazon gift card

3. Give free or low-cost, but thoughtful, gifts. I have learned that buying presents at the dollar store isn’t always best. Some people will give or even throw them away! However, you can give gifts that are low cost or even free that people appreciate and even love! For example, my husband Ray has NEVER complained when I have put a “coupon” inside a gift box for an oil, back massage! Our daughters have deeply appreciated “coupons” for babysitting. Baking cookies, brownies, and Christmas goodies and putting them in those cute, decorative, holiday tin cans are always a hit. Buy a couple of movie tickets to bless your married kids or family members. Amazon, Kohl’s, Starbucks, Target, Walmart, Visa, and other gift cards can be great stocking stuffers or main gifts. There’s endless ways to give gifts that don’t break the bank and save you time and stress.

sweet potato casserole. Source: Delish

sweet potatoes casserole
Photo source: Delish

4. Simplify. To simplify means to reduce to basic essentials, diminish, or streamline. You and I can get all worked up, thinking we have to have the perfect Christmas for our family and our friends. We spend too much money, eat too many sweets, clean the house spotlessly until we’re exhausted, cook too much food (that often goes to waste!), and then when the holiday is over, we’re totally stressed out, exhausted, and maybe even resentful of others and mad at ourselves! It’s time to pare down and get down to the bones–the real meaning of Christmas, which is about Jesus and loving our family and others! Just one example is simplifying the family holiday meal. One Christmas we decided to skip the big meal and order sushi and Chinese. It was wonderful and we all loved it! Another holiday, we decided to go out to eat Italian at Cinzetti’s restaurant for their amazing buffet–delicious. (Anything where I don’t have to cook is a great idea, in my opinion!) If you don’t have the money to go out to eat or prefer having the meal at your home, just simplify your menu. It’s a shame that so much food goes to waste because people don’t like to eat leftovers, or they forget about them. Have just one or two side dishes, instead of four or five! Bake one, or at the most, two desserts. Choose one type of meat, instead of two. We don’t have to gorge ourselves at Christmas to be content!

Christmas decor. Tatianpages.com

Christmas decor
Photo source: Tatianpages.com

5. Try something new. One reason tensions build at holidays is that everything is familiar. You have the same foods, see the same people, do the same things. It can become boring. Strife and drama occur, with people fighting over the same ridiculous, stupid things. Adding something new at the holidays can lighten your heart and give you joy. If you normally stay home, go somewhere you’ve never been: attend The Nutcracker ballet, see the lighting of the Kansas City Plaza lights, watch someone at a shop make fudge (and sample it!)–or try making fudge yourself with grandma’s recipe. Drive in a new, affluent area with beautifully decorated Christmas lights. When my sister Maria and her family visited us several years ago, she and her kids tried ice skating in Kansas City, MO–fun! Her daughter Katie took to it right away (being a good roller skater!) and loved it! One year my daughter Heather and I shopped at her workplace at that time, Pier 1, and chose Christmas tree decorations, representing our family members. We picked a pickle for my husband Ray, because he loves pickles; a suitcase for me (I love traveling); a diamond ring for Heather (in hopes of getting engaged), an owl for our daughter Eden (she loves owls); and a snowflake for our daughter Leah (she thinks they are pretty and loves how unique they are). Each year I’ve added decorations to represent family members, at the birth of each grandchild. You can choose new things to do or traditions that will make Christmas more fun!

These are just a few tips to help you alleviate or reduce holiday stress. What are some things you do to help make your Christmas more joyful and less hectic and stressful? Leave your comments below.

 

 

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Blog, Faith, Featured, Marriage, Parenting, prayer

Depression and addiction during the holidays

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Woman putting ribbon on gift
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Lately I’ve talked with two different Christian women friends who shared that they become deeply depressed during the holidays–that period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when so many people are joyful and excited, planning and cooking a big family meal, shopping, buying and wrapping Christmas gifts, and attending or hosting parties. These friends said they just want it over with as soon as possible!

http://www.promopro.com/shopping-tips/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Five-Best-Thanksgiving-Apps-for-Your-Perfect-Holiday-Meal.jpg

Thanksgiving meal

One friend cited the reason being that her dreams of a happy family have been shattered, after her husband left her for another woman, had a child with the mistress, and then divorced her, the wife. Although she makes an effort for the sake of her children to beautifully decorate the Christmas tree and their home’s rooms each year, she said their expensive, nice house feels empty and lonely without her husband there to celebrate  with her and their kids. 

The second friend, also divorced (her husband had an affair and was addicted to drugs), said that she feels she and her children don’t “fit in anywhere” when so many families are sitting together happily around the Christmas tree to open presents. Conversations with her aging, ailing father and her emotionally distant brothers are strained at restaurants eating a “holiday meal,” and she feels that she is imposing, asking to be with friends at their family gatherings.

Source: NDTV

Source: NDTV https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/lift-your-gloomy-mood-up-during-winters-with-these-5-foods-1797440

My friend also wonders if she has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), related to changes in seasons. Researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause for SAD, but the reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood) and melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood).

It’s not always “the most wonderful time of the year.” Many people struggle with depression and stress during the holidays.

 While the suicide rate is highest between April and August rather than the holidays, there are findings from surveys that people feel more stress, anxiety, and depression between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to Psychology Today.

pensive woman

depressed woman

Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season, according to Psychology Today. Participants listed the top stressors as lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family gatherings.

Another poll of more than 1,000 adults by a global investment company, Principal Financial Group, found that 53 percent of people experience financial stress due to holiday spending, despite the fact more than half set budgets for their holiday spending.

As Christian believers, we know that Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, yet how many of us succumb to the pressure of spending lots of money on food and gifts at this time of year?

In fact, holiday retail sales in 2018 surpassed $1 trillion, and Americans spent an average of $1,536 during the Christmas holidays in 2018! INSANE! And 14.2% of Americans sell possessions to fund their Christmas shopping! No wonder people get depressed and stressed!

Alcohol. Source: Recovery Village

Whiskey
Source: The Recovery Village

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone. But for recovering addicts, or those struggling with an active addiction, the holidays can cause a relapse.

The same issues of money, family, and general stress are amplified for the addict. Addicts without a stable family or friends often feel alone, isolated, and bored, which can drive addictive behavior. 

Woman at ocean

Woman at ocean

Recovery is possible for the alcoholic/addict. One beautiful place offering treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders is The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, Colorado, near Colorado Springs.

One thing which struck me about this place is that they have walking trails, an on-site gym for working out, and they offer equine therapy for clients to work with horses.

Equine Therapy Source: McCaskill Family Services, Michigan

Equine Therapy
Source: McCaskill Family Services, Michigan

Their 110-bed, clean, safe facility near the Colorado Rockies with luxurious rooms has a team of medical and clinical professionals to help adults get freedom from addiction and to live healthier, happier lives. They are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. 

You can see a virtual tour of the facility here

If you are struggling with addiction and/or depression, stress, and anxiety, especially during the holidays, consider a treatment facility like The Recovery Village. Other sources for help for you are below. Remember, you are not alone!

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Al-Anon (family members or friends of alcoholics/addicts)

Narcotics Anonymous (substance abuse addiction)

Teen Challenge ( Christian faith-based corporations intended to help teenagers, adults, and families with problems such as substance abuse or self-destructive behavior)

Suicide National Hotline

 

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Faith, Family, Marriage, Parenting, prayer

Don’t wallow

Yesterday my  husband Ray and I were having a conversation about a relative who has basically gone “no contact” with our entire family, out of hurt and offenses. Although we have done our best to make amends with this person, and to ask forgiveness for any wrongs committed, relationships remain strained. My fervent prayer (daily) is for reconciliation.

I was sharing with Ray how deeply hurt I am over the situation, and Ray’s frustrated response was, “I know it hurts. This hurts me, too. But we can’t wallow in the hurt, Beth! We can’t stay there for the rest of our lives. We need a future!”

hurting woman

hurting woman
Source: Psychology Today

I knew Ray was speaking the truth. His word wallow bothered me a lot. The definition of “wallow” is:

  • to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed manner (like a pig wallowing in the mud);
  • to take unrestrained pleasure in something (like silk sheets);
  • to become abundantly supplied (like a family wallowing in sudden wealth);
  • to indulge oneself immoderately (like wallowing in self-pity);
  • to become or remain helpless.

No, I don’t want to be a victim, wallowing in hurt, anger, and self-pity! I want to be free in Christ. Jesus died for this freedom and for me and those I love to have an abundant life!

rhinoceros wallowing in muddy waterhole

rhinoceros wallowing in muddy waterhole
Source: wildlife-pictures-online.com

Pigs, hippopotamuses, elephants, rhinoceroses, warthogs, and bison instinctively wallow in dirt, mud, snow, or water. They do this for temperature regulation, parasite removal, and sun protection (their skin can get sunburned). They may also rub their scent glands around wallowing areas, possibly to mark their territory.

But as humans, our protection is in God. We can’t control what other people do or don’t do. But we can be responsible for ourselves and our own growth. We don’t have to stay stuck in the devastating hurt, or anger, or confusion. We don’t need to wallow in anything. 

She did not do wallowing

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

“For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.” (Psalm 91:3-6, NASB)

In the article, Sitting with your stuff vs. wallowing, Coach Kate Swoboda writes that “wallow” conjures up images of being stuck, hopeless, sad or defeated, and “perhaps even a little pissed,” yet being a total victim and doing very little about making any changes whatsoever.

It’s like you being seated on a plane to fly to your eagerly-anticipated vacation destination, but the plane is still sitting on the tarmac, going nowhere. Or you sitting on a train, yet the train is not moving on the rails.

It’s important not to avoid your “stuff,” since whatever you repress just gets stronger. But blowing up at whoever you’re upset with and telling him or her exactly what you think might not be wise, either.

My story

Kate says the difference between “sitting with your stuff” versus “wallowing” is in the Story. Some stories, like people are generally full of good intentions and do their best, serve you.

But a story that people are just mean and selfish doesn’t serve you well. In these situations where you believe that people are always mean, you might think, “Why does this always happen to me? My life feels like it will never change. It never works out.” You are, yes, wallowing!

In the first story, sitting with your stuff instead of wallowing, you might think, “I don’t like how this feels. I’m so sad. Yet this where I’m at right now. This really sucks. But it won’t last forever.”

Kate encourages us to make space for the parts that make us human (where we might be inclined to wallow, i.e., the emotional pain), but not let it define us. And as my husband Ray said, to not let it be our future.

I personally believe forgiveness is a large part of not letting hurts define us. Forgiveness takes time, God’s power, and our will. It is not an easy or quick fix, but necessary for spiritual growth and maturity.

Understanding our true identity in Christ also helps set us free. No one and nothing else defines who we are: a royal daughter (or son) of the King!

The future

Are you wallowing about anything right now? I encourage you to bring it to God and let Him help heal you so that you can move forward with your life and God-designed purpose. One day at a time.

*******

A good resource to help you with this issue is Coffee with God: Starting Your Day Right With Prayer & The Bible. You can get this encouraging eBook at Amazon here.

Coffee With God eBook

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