- I intend to participate in the shopping and the wrapping and the gift-exchanging, but I don’t want that to become the sum-total of my Christmas efforts and memories.
- I take my children to activities like Breakfast with Santa at their school, but I want them to understand the spiritual meaning of the holiday without getting bogged down by the secular trappings.
- I am decorating, and volunteering, and baking, and traveling, but I want to do these things for the joy they bring to me and my family, and not out of a rushed sense of obligation.
- Get enough sleep! We know what we as individuals need, and we can tell when we aren’t getting it. Sometimes an afternoon power nap of about 20 minutes will do a world of good if we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to take one!
- Drink a lot of water.
- Don't forget to breathe! Most of us aren't breathing in nearly deeply enough.
- Be careful about drinking too much alcohol. The holidays can be a time when we start a little earlier than usual, pay less attention to how much we are drinking, and/or drink a little extra to ease the holiday stress. We are much healthier when we pay attention to what we are doing, and exercise good judgment and limits.
- Balance holiday indulgences with healthy snacks.
- Take time to exercise, or at least stretch a little.
- Get outside for some fresh air. At least look out the window once in a while!
- Give yourself a grown-up time-out. Many of the ideas here are good for our time-outs: a brief walk, some deep breaths, a cup of tea, a stretch, a little music.
- Take time out for a laugh—a joke with a friend, a stand-up routine on TV, or a silly meme or YouTube video.
- Enjoy the moment you are in. We don’t need to borrow trouble worrying too much about what comes next. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
- Do I have to attend (or host!) so many parties?
- Do I have to buy so many gifts for so many people?
- Do I have to make so many appetizers? So many side dishes? So many desserts?
- Do I have to make sure my wrapping paper is themed or color-coordinated?
- Do I have to put up ALL of the decorations from all 3 (or 5 or 15) tubs in the attic?
- Rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone, adults could buy gifts for children only.
- Your family could organize a Secret Santa exchange so that each person gets a gift for one other person.
- Your family could play a fun holiday gift-giving game where everyone brings a wrapped present that cost a certain modest amount of money to place at the center of the room. Then everyone draws a number and waits for their number to be called to select a gift. You’ve probably played a version of this at White Elephant parties; I’m sure a more comprehensive set of instructions can be found online!
- Reduce/ reuse/ recycle. Have a book swap. Or a decoration swap. Or a cookie swap.
- Set up an exchange where everyone hand-makes a gift, or has a dollar-store gift exchange, or purchases something that supports local farmers or artisans, or creates a food-related gift in a reusable container (like a casserole dish from a thrift shop), including the recipe.
- Consider giving experiences rather than things: trips or memberships to the zoo or a local museum, classes in hobbies of interest, car washes, restaurant vouchers, massage gift certificates, movie tickets, bowling passes.
- Create “coupon” gifts promising to complete chores around the house or helpful errands. These are often created by children for their parents, but I can think of plenty of chore coupons I would love for my husband to give me so that I could redeem them through the year!
This topic is probably like so many other topics: we know what we want to do, and even what we probably ought to do, but getting around to doing it is another matter. Feeling stressed at the holidays is almost a habit...for some people, I think it's some sort of badge of honor!
But there is nothing in feelings of stress or anxiety, in worries about budgets and debts, in concerns about materialism and consumerism that helps us prepare our hearts for a celebration of Christ's coming into our world, for remembering and honoring God's amazing act of mercy and grace on our behalf, for experiencing and sharing the hope, peace, joy, and love of the season with our families and our wider communities.
If you could do ONE THING to ease the stress and anxiety of the season and to simplify the holidays for you and your family, what would that one thing be?
Now, go do it!