Every November, the holiday dash begins and does not slow until we ring in the New Year.
The weeks leading up to 2023 are exciting and can feel overwhelming as you find yourself busy searching for the perfect gift, planning gatherings, and deciding what new changes you resolve to make in the new year.
Some of these activities inevitably generate a certain amount of stress. Stress does not always mean one dreads an activity, although that can be the case depending on who will be at some of your family gatherings. Stress means that the body experiences psychological pressures related to an event. This can result in becoming physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, and emotionally drained.
Studies suggest there are two types of stress: distress and eustress. We are more familiar with the distressing aspect of stress, but a large part of our lives is spent in eustress.
This is especially the case when dealing with important family or social events. This is the stress of anticipation and excitement which can occur when a fiancé is meeting the family, when that difficult in-law opens the gift you got for them, or when you are cooking your first family holiday dinner. It’s all good stress, but stress is just the same.
Holiday stress, thankfully, is short-term, but it can take a toll on your mind, body, and spirit. It’s important to remember to take time for rest and relaxation. Spend some time enjoying the process and breathe in the wonder of the season. Remind yourself of the season’s purpose. It is too easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and lose sight of the awe and wonder of it all. And this is when eustress can change and become distressed.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by your holiday to-do list, follow these three steps:
1. Determine what is time sensitive.
Allocate a specific time on your calendar for those activities.
2. Decide what is most important to maintaining well-being (yours or your family’s).
These are the next items that should find a dedicated space in your schedule.
3. Distinguish between actual and perceived obligations.
Many of the things that clutter our holiday to-do list are perceived obligations. For example, you do not have to buy a different gift for every person on your list. You could instead simplify your shopping by deciding on a gift you could give every person on your list and spend that extra time enjoying the holiday with those you love.
When searching for ideas to destress for the holidays, several options were available: laugh around the fire pit, listen to music, practice self-compassion, ask and allow others to help, delegate some of the work, set healthy boundaries, enjoy holiday foods in moderation, take a leisure walk to look at the neighbor’s decorations, and breathe in the smells of fall.
Additional ways to take some time for yourself can include watching a fun Christmas movie, having a game night, and sitting in a quiet room with a cup of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.
Enjoy a few moments of calm and allow the mind to unwind. Of course, this list can go on for pages. The important thing is to find personally enjoyable and relaxing activities to de-stress. Whatever it looks like, prioritize time for yourself during the holidays independent of your seasonal obligations.
When you do, you reap the benefits of what this season is about, which is the good news of the gospel, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, who came to earth for our health, freedom, and vision (Luke 4: 18). We can be assured of His company through the best of this season, as well as the difficult and unwelcomed stressors that can pull you down.
Breathe in His grace and peace … a peace the world does not understand but needs right now (Luke 2; John 14:17). You can rest assured in His healing power over our emotional, mental, and physical health today as well as in the coming year. In whatever ways you choose to de-stress your life, be encouraged—God is with you (Matthew 1:23).