5 Ways to Avoid Stress During the Holidays

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Here's how you can have a peaceful holiday season.
Here's how you can have a peaceful holiday season. (Charisma archives)

"Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright."

Each night we heard my son tattling on his sister, "Mom, Sarah is taking too much time in the bathroom." Silent? Hardly. Calm? Nope.

"Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. ..."

For the third time that week, we were late to soccer practice. And my husband, Paul, was the coach. That routine was far from restful.

"O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. ..."

(Sigh.) So much to do, so little time—removed from tranquil.

Are these holiday lyrics descriptions of your family's Christmas season? During the Christmas rush, our homes are far from silent, calm, restful, still, or peaceful. The holiday momentum builds the day after Thanksgiving; the house is noisy, busy, hustling, bustling, and brimming over with activity and stress to the point of near exhaustion. We have so much to do before Christmas day arrives. There are lists to make, baking to prepare, cards to send, shopping to do, gifts to wrap, and events to plan.

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Then there are Christmas church services, musicals, plays, concerts, recitals, office parties, family gatherings, and Christmas light tours. Don't forget traditions to revisit and memories to make.

Have you ever been tempted to run away at Christmastime? It would be nice to take a two-week trip, maybe to a deserted island, and be alone with your family—or maybe just alone! There is a solution! We can intentionally cut the Christmas chaos this year. The five steps to doing so spell the word PEACE.

P: Pray Ahead

Guess what? Christmas comes on the same date at the same time every year: December 25. Start praying for your holiday experience when you see the first hint of Christmas decorations in the stores. In July, I browsed Hobby Lobby for items to decorate my patio, I was shocked to see there were things for sale announcing not only the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but—oh yes—Christmas. Instead of asking, "Can you believe Christmas decorations are already for sale?" tell yourself, "I am so glad I'm reminded to begin to pray for our family's holiday season to glorify the Lord. Let Jesus be celebrated on His birthday."

Pray for God's peace to rule before, during, and after your holiday. Pray for peace to reside in your heart and mind, so it will infect and redirect the chaos around you.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6, NIV).

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it to the full" (John 10:10, NIV).

E: Express Your Desire

After you've talked to God about your holiday hope for harmony, pick a night for a family meeting and share your thoughts with your loved ones. Ask each person to write down his or her favorite traditions, activities, and foods associated with the holiday. As you are gather the lists, mix them up and pass them out to a person other than the one who made the list. Give each person a few minutes to read aloud the list he or she received. There will be many repeated items on the lists. Have someone make a list of the most popular items in each category. Keep the most favorite traditions and activities on the to-do list, and let the others go. This will make simplifying Christmas much easier, and everyone will have a say.

Explain to your loved ones that as they simplify, it will help increase their peace and enjoyment during the holidays.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as member of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15, NIV).

A: Accept a Few Invitations

Believe it or not, less is more. Take a minute to think about all of the events tied to the holiday season: Christmas parties, cookie decorating in your child's classroom, potlucks at work, secret Santa for the ladies' group, and Christmas plays and concerts. Unintentionally, we get ourselves and our families twisted and tangled in the Christmas tinsel of too much activity. Only one thing is important: focusing on Jesus.

How do you choose what to attend and how to spend your precious time? Share Advent with your family each morning at breakfast. I use a daily Scripture Advent calendar I found on Pinterest to keep focused on Jesus, the reason for the season. When we choose to start the day focusing on Jesus, it is easier to say no when the invitations arrive.

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