Originally published Monday, 19 November 2012.
You all are in for a treat today. For those of you who joined me in the Stress Point Summer Study you might remember my friend Tracie Miles and her girlfriend interview. Tracie has a brand new book out Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace In Your Chaotic World.
I decided it would be really neat to hear from Tracie about stress and the upcoming holiday season (Thanksgiving is next week! and Christmas will be here before we know it!) Here's an interview I did with Tracie...
~Tracie, I'd love for you to share some quick tips on managing stress during the holidays. Many of my readers might be juggling money stress (buying presents on a shoe string budget), family stress (heightened emotions when we only see family a couple times a year) and maybe even loneliness. Can you give us some thoughts on how to keep things in perspective?
Let’s be honest – there is no way to get through the holidays without some stress, especially when it comes to thinking about the areas of paying for gifts, dealing with family and loneliness.
I will admit that I used to be one of those people that would spend way beyond my budget because I thought I needed to buy expensive gifts for everyone or else I would look like a cheap skate. But when finances got really tight for our family a few years ago because of the economy and its effect on our family business, I knew I had to make a change. I not only went to a cash only basis, but rather than buying overly expensive gifts for everyone, I instead began to put more thought into things that would be special and personal, and then looking for an appropriate gift within my budget. Not only did that help with my spending, but the gifts were actually more meaningful. One great idea is a blessings box, or a treasure box, which is a box of your choosing (glass, cardboard, decorative, etc.) filled with printed scripture promises. To make it even more special, you can consider paraphrasing the verses and including your loved one’s name in the promise. I mention this gift in my book Stressed-Less Living, and also provide a list of verses to consider using. But there are lots of ways to make personal gifts that people will love if we seek out ideas (and with Pinterest the work is half done!).
Family stress is a challenge for many people because we get to choose our friends but not our relatives! And sometimes relatives can cause stress. I would recommend that for people who know that holiday family gatherings will bring on a lot of stress, to consider approaching this year with a different perspective. Rather than dreading the looming challenges, personality conflicts, and impending chaos – pray about it instead during the weeks leading up to the gathering. If we approach the holidays with the same outlook as every other year, then the holidays will, indeed, feel and be the same as every other year. I love the cliche that says “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, and it applies to holidays too. If we want to avoid the holiday stress that seems to happen over and over again, consider approaching the holidays with a different outlook this year. Pray for God to give you more patience and tolerance for the things (or people) that usually push you over the edge. Ask for Him to intervene in your relationships and in the hearts of your loved ones, so that the holidays can be a pleasant time. And lastly, ask God to fill your heart with such peace and joy that nothing could steal it away!
Although some of us wish we didn’t have certain family members to deal with during the holidays, other people wish they had family to be with. Loneliness can often be a heart drainer during the holidays, because life might have changed over the past year, possibly due to divorce, a new empty nest, death, being single or even because of recently relocating away from family. Make a point to seek out ways to get plugged into activities during the holidays so that you can be around others and not be alone. Consider doing some volunteer work to serve others, such as working at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving day, or Christmas eve or day; or volunteering to deliver donated gifts to needy family. Or maybe ponder creating some new traditions you can start, maybe opening up your home to people who don’t have family to go to, and creating your own “family” – which is a great way to make new friends who will be a gift all year long, and not just at the holidays. But also remember to spend time with Jesus every day, especially on the loneliest of days, because He is a friend and Father that is always by our side.
~What are some physical things we can do to alleviate holiday stress?
We all tend to over eat at the holidays which brings on stress – it’s practically impossible to avoid! Unfortunately I can easily bypass a big fatty meal, but put a few appetizers and finger foods in front of me, and I lose all self control! I have learned that making a conscious effort to drink a lot of water every day, but especially before a potential overeating opportunity, helps curb my appetite. We can also try to not avoid everything yummy, which might dampen our holiday joy, but instead enjoy those foods in moderation. Most importantly – don’t tell yourself that you’ll worry about calories and exercise starting in January, because that only adds to the stress of the new year! So make an effort to carve out time during the holidays to exercise and stay active (and shopping doenst count!)
~I know that it is not always healthy to turn to food to manage our stress...but what is one of your favorite holiday (Thanksgiving or Christmas) food indulgences?
Pecan pie is my favorite holiday dessert, with warm pumpkin pie topped with whip cream running a close second! Unfortunately I have found it impossible for me to walk past a cinnamon roasted almonds booth without buying some, especially since it smells AND taste like the holidays! And I also love Starbucks Peppermint Mocha lattes, but always order it with skim milk so I don’t feel too guilty. :)
Tracie Miles is a national conference speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Tracie speaks God's truths to empower and motivate others to depend on Christ in their everyday lives, discover God's unshakable joy in the unpredictable journey of life, and lead them to a place of peace and purpose through learning to live intentionally for Christ. Tracie is a contributing writer for Encouragement for Today online devotions that currently touch over 500,000 lives each day across the world. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. Visit Tracie at www.traciemiles.com . Also check out the book’s website atwww.stressedlessliving.com