Christmas shouldn’t be stress-inducing.
At the heart of the holiday, we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. Yes, Mary and Joseph experienced a lot of stress before and after the birth of Jesus. (Do you think their family and friends believed in a virgin birth? What about the arduous journey to Bethlehem, only to discover there was no comfortable lodging available? How about fleeing to Egypt when Herod went on a killing spree?)
But we’re celebrating our Savior and his humble birth. Making lavish plans to focus on anything but that is unnecessary.
Yet it’s so easy to slip into the typical December frenzy – the decorating, shopping, baking, hosting monster that has stereotypically become a Holly Jolly Christmas.
Yesterday in my house
Over the past few years my husband and I have wrestled with our December plans. We want to honor Christ in our celebrations. We want our children to celebrate our Savior – and not a bunch of Stuff. And we want to add a little peace into our schedule.
In some ways we’ve made a lot of progress. I try to finish most of our Christmas shopping long before Thanksgiving so we can avoid the stress of crowded stores. I bake our Christmas cookies during lulls of our schedule, long before our parties – and then freeze them for freshness – so I’m not rushed to whip them up at the last minute. Our decorating is simplified and done early in December. Our entertaining is limited to our nearest and dearest relationships.
But stress is still present. Even though my decorations are up and my shopping and baking is pretty much finished (please don’t let this admission stress you out … I’ve only done these things so far in advance to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed) I came to a breaking point yesterday.
I was working on simple Christmas crafts with my children and made a trip to our basement to dig out some supplies. I saw all of the mess – and came upstairs and saw my total mess of a house and just.couldn’t.deal. I felt so suffocated by the messiness of everyday life, the messiness of home schooling, the messiness of an American Christmas. During what certainly seemed like the onset of a panic attack, I knew I needed to get things in order by the time my husband came home from work – but I also needed to get things in order for my own peace of mind.
Just as I began to feel like I couldn’t take another second of the mess and mayhem, I was quietly reminded that Christmas is not about the stress I was experiencing. My upcoming visits with family and friends should bring joy – not anxiety. Celebrating Advent with my children every day should conjure awe and honor – not temper tantrums and yelling.
I stopped myself in my tracks and began to pray for guidance and peace. Then, knowing myself well enough to realize that messes create an enormous amount of internal strife, I changed my plans for the week. I had been planning a big minimalistic push for the beginning of year (purge, purge, purge!) but I decided to start now. I never would imagine that I could or would start purging in December – but I think getting rid of unnecessary belongings will bring much peace.
I also decided to switch my plans for Accidentally Green. Originally I had hoped to publish a lot of gift guides and reviews, but it’s just not striking my fancy right now. Thanks for tolerating my Black Friday/Cyber Monday posts … but really, I am tired of thinking about gifts. I want to focus on Christ instead.
Since this is a blog largely centered on healthy living, I’ll try to address healthy approaches to the holiday. Tomorrow I’ll share some simple ways to deal with stress – and I promise I’ll only share approaches that have worked in my own life.
How are you dealing with holiday stress? What do you try to avoid? What do you try to implement?
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Andrea Winbigler says
I have tried so many things to cut down the list of stuff to do, get it done in advance, allow myself time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. However, every year I end up just sick from anxiety and panic attacks. Stress seems unavoidable during the holiday season. I think one year we are going to try going on vacation instead of the usual family crazy train.
Hilary Kimes Bernstein says
That’s funny … my husband and I were just talking about how relaxing a vacation over Christmas would be! Finally the holiday rush is settling down … and I’m exhausted. Thanks so much for commenting; it’s great to hear that I’m not alone!!