Christmas is nearly upon us! It’s a time of high highs and low lows—in part, the depth of the “lows” is precisely *because* of the high expectations we place upon Christmastime. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” right?
If Christmas is stressful for you, it’s usually because of one of the following reasons. Feel free to skip to the one that applies to you.
Too Much to Do, Too Little Time
If you’re the hostess, or a mom or a grandma with kids around, this tends to happen. There are so many people to buy for, so much to cook, so many things to clean! But remember—all of those things are beside the point. The point of Christmas is to celebrate that Jesus came to earth. You can do that with or without throwing the best party in the world. Therefore:
- Don’t feel like you have to be perfect. Nobody is going to care if you don’t vacuum the hall that second time. I promise. If you don’t get all the decorations hung where you want them, ten to one your guests won’t even notice. And if they do, they won’t comment on it. And if they do… don’t invite them next year!
- Consider a pot luck. You don’t have to make all the food yourself. It’s completely socially acceptable to ask others to contribute!
- If people offer to help you… accept. I know this can be hard, especially for those whose “love language” is acts of service. Your family knows you love them. It’s okay to accept help when you’re already exhausted. It’s essential to accept help if you’ll otherwise feel resentful!
Holidays, for many of us, mean family get-togethers. Sometimes that’s fantastic! But if it’s not for you, it might be because you’re out of your element—other people are making demands, perhaps taking over your home, or triggering you to revert back to childhood patterns of relating. If this is you, a few tips to keep your sanity:
- Stick to your routines. If you work out daily or several times per week, find a way to squeeze this in. If you like to go to bed at a particular time, don’t let holiday guests pressure you into doing otherwise. If you don’t want that extra glass of wine, don’t drink it just because everybody else is. If you feel better when you spend time praying or meditating, carve out time for that and protect it. Wake up early if you have to. Sticking to your routine gives you a sense of control, it helps you to be your best self, and it will keep you grounded in who you are today—not who you used to be when your great aunt last saw you ten years ago. Along those lines:
- Maintain your boundaries. It’s easy to want to bend over backwards to accommodate those you rarely see… but especially if it’s a long visit, this can make you crazy and exhausted by the end of it. Decide in advance what you will and won’t put up with—that way you won’t be surprised when that person who always pushes your buttons crosses the line, and then you find yourself yourself outwardly smiling while seething internally. Instead, you can kindly but firmly say, “I’d prefer not to talk about my weight, if you don’t mind,” or “No, you may not give my children five cookies before bedtime.”
- Check in with people from your everyday life. This is especially important if you tend to find yourself reverting back to a childhood version of yourself. Keep in touch via text, calling, or emailing if those who know who you are now aren’t attending your Christmas festivities with you.
One of the big reasons why Christmas is so tough for many is because it’s hailed as a holiday for families. If you don’t have one, or otherwise find yourself alone, it can be even harder at Christmastime than at other times of the year. If this is you:
- Spend time helping others. We should all be doing this anyway, but it’s an especially good antidote for depression. Martin Seligman writes in Learned Optimism, “Depression… stems partly from an overcommitment to the self and an under commitment to the common good. This state of affairs is hazardous to our health and well-being just as lack of exercise and certain cholesterols are. The consequence of preoccupation with our own successes and failures and lack of serious commitment to the commons is increased depression, poor health, and lives without meaning.” The point is, if you’re focused on helping others, you’re not focused on your own situation. Also, the very act of contributing to someone else’s well-being will make you feel good about yourself– an excellent antidote to holiday loneliness.
- Make plans with friends, with extended family, with a club, or with an organization you belong to. If you don’t want to be alone, there’s probably someone who would be more than happy to welcome you into their Christmas celebration. It’s hard to ask, especially if you don’t like to imposition others; but you will be glad you did.
Remember that the point of Christmas isn’t rushing around getting everything just perfect. It’s not gritting your teeth and getting through the awkward family gatherings. We all know it’s not about gift-getting or gift-giving. It’s not even about having certain people around you to celebrate, although of course that is wonderful if you have it.
The point of Christmas is this.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.