This post: Americans need Christmas stress balls… and four things we can do about it.
When I was a kid, I started counting down days until Christmas sometime in October. Time seemed to C.R.A.W.L. between those early fall days + the final climax at Christmas Eve, when our family opened gifts.
These days, I’m a mom with five kids, a home, and a part-time job to manage. I no longer embrace the sentiment that Christmas morning will never dawn. In fact, the holiday season can feel like some kind of neck-breaking roller coaster.
As Americans, we have become a culture who needs Christmas stress balls in order to survive the holiday season.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with stress balls; we own several of them at our house. I get anxiety. I get depression. I get that sometimes the holidays are hard.
Enter: Christmas Stress Balls
My children, however, would ardently disagree. Daily, they ask about holiday plans, when will we open gifts, how many days until Christmas, and can they please open their stockings early?
Instead of getting irritated with their constant questions, I allow myself to remember my own childish joy. The light of anticipation in their young eyes makes me feel quite uncharacteristically patient (sometimes).
It’s so very hard to wait for something as wonderful as Christmas.
Unless… you happen to be a grown up who needs to give those Christmas stress balls a squeeze.
Adulting & Holiday Stress
When you’re an adult, the calendar feels less like a never-ending-story and more like the worst boss you’ve ever had.
Suddenly, all those white spaces disappear as ink blots commitments fill up the margins of your life, not just the pages of your planner.
My biggest challenge in this season of life-
and this season of the year–
is simply managing the demands so that I can enjoy the days.
So. Many. Extras.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated right now, and wishing you could just sort of skip the holidays – believe me when I say that I relate.
But I also feel like it’s possible– and so very important- to prioritize where our time is going at the holiday season. And, above all, it’s important to embrace the peace that Jesus promises his children.
Even during the holidays.
I hope this post – “4 Stress Tree Holiday Tips-” will give you a nudge toward living well this season.
4 Stress-Free Holiday Tips
These help me live a little more abundantly, and a little less stressed during the holiday season.
Holiday Stress Hack #1:
Name What’s Draining You.
If you’re feeling stressed, chances are what you’re not feeling is energized.
Stress consumes our mental, emotional, and even physical fuel… the fuel that we need for living well and enjoying life.
Instead of waking up with optimism, ready to love generously and enjoy our work, we end up dragging through the day unfocused, frustrated, exhausted and anxious – or worse.
Not the way I want to live the holiday season.
This is why it’s important to name what’s draining you.
Identify what’s using up your fuel for life so you can deal with it.
Depending on how aware you are of what triggers and drains you, you might need to sit with this for a while.
Grab a sheet of paper (the printable worksheet I shared in this post, for example) and write down what’s depleting your zest for life right now.
A few examples from my own life:
1. Over commitment, too much socializing and not enough down time.
2. Not getting enough sleep.
3. Too much negativity (from people or the news).
Much of what happens in this world is beyond our control, but our response to what’s happening is 100% on us.
Identify what’s draining your joy, then do something about it.
Holiday Stress Hack #2:
Decide What’s Really Important.
It sounds obvious, but it’s really hard to live this out.
So many of us run ourselves ragged at the holidays, trying to accommodate every demand anyone happens to throw our way.
Here’s a remedy for the frustration that accompanies over-commitment:
Decide what’s important to you (and your family) – and don’t worry about the rest.
After all, you really can’t do it all.
Like I mentioned above, no one feels good about life when the calendar is consuming every waking moment.
Even if you’re an extroverted personality, you need some down time. You need to sleep, and spend enough time at home to get the necessities of life in order.
Do yourself a favor and prioritize your life for the next few weeks.
Holiday Stress Hack #3:
This is a really important point for me. Like most adults, I have a lot on my plate. Not only am I a wife and mom, but a pastor’s wife and full-time home educator, as well.
If I didn’t give myself the freedom to simplify, I think I might actually go crazy!
(Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.)
For example, most years our family takes a long break from homeschooling at the holidays.
To streamline Christmas shopping and the holiday budget, we stick to a 4 gifts for Christmas rule (which our family loves, by the way).
We don’t put lights up on our home, and I keep Christmas decor simple and meaningful.
Don’t get me wrong; Jeremy and I are not a pair of Grinches. We just don’t have the time or financial margin to “do it all.” And we’re okay with that.
Simple is okay. More than okay, actually.
Simplicity is life-giving and beautiful, because it frees you to live fully in the moments that absolutely matter.
If you’re struggling to tame the demands on your time at the holidays, try simplifying.
NO is a simple word to start with.
No to expectations.
No to perfectionism.
No to the comparison game.
Simplify meals, schedules, work loads, gatherings, house work or anything else you can.
I think you’ll find yourself saying YES to a lot more peace.
Holiday Stress Hack #4:
Name the Benefits
Once you’ve trimmed the edges on what you’re demanding out of the season (perfection, for example)-
and what others might be expecting (you to show up at a different holiday party every weekend in December)-
Take a deep breath and give yourself permission to relax a little.
There are benefits to prioritizing your life, saying NO, and dealing with holiday stress in a healthy way.
Name the benefits.
It’s important that we recognize where we’re gaining ground, so go ahead and write it down in black-and-white (remember that worksheet I sent you? Go ahead and print it).
I canceled that second Christmas dinner RSVP, so that means we get a night at home to relax this week.
We’ve worked hard this semester and now we get a break from school; I’m turning off my alarm in the morning.
Another way to “name the benefits” is taking the time to reflect on blessings.
In Scripture, the Psalmist declared:
Bless the Lord, O my soul;Psalm 103: 1&2
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Did you catch that?
King David reminded himself to not forget the benefits of being a child of God.
It’s so easy to forget, isn’t it?
But we can just as easily get intentional about remembering.
One of my goals for this upcoming year- I’ve already started working on this- is to keep a gratitude journal.
It’s scientifically proven that gratitude increases happiness and can decrease feelings of stress- and even improves our physical well being. (source)
While you’re naming those benefits, go ahead and write down a few things you’re thankful for.
Start a gratitude journal.
Send a few thank you cards.
Or just say “thank you” out loud, as many times as you can today.
These stress-free holiday tips are good for more than just the holidays, yes?
I think they can take us far in the New Year too.
Please feel free to share this post with a friend who could use a little holiday inspo.
That’s why I do what I do. xo
Which one of these 4 tips felt most helpful right now? Drop a comment and tell me about it.
P.S. Don’t feel bad if you don’t totally give up on those Christmas stress balls. I may squeeze one every now + then, too…