Don’t let anyone else’s expectations ruin your holiday. This is regardless if it’s an outside influence like social media, your family members, or your friends.
Life presents us with many stressful moments and times, and the holidays are no exception. There are a thousand things to do and not enough time to get it all in, it seems. The baking, the shopping, taking the kids to see Santa, the activities at church, and the list goes on and on. It’s so easy to get caught up in the expectations that we have for ourselves and the expectations that society puts on us.
The holidays are a fun time, and it’s important to remember that we don’t need to stress. Once again, amid our “me”-centered society, we need to get back to the basics. Jesus had very humble beginnings and didn’t have the perfect Christmas. All he had was Joseph, Mary, and the animals. He didn’t have big decorated trees, tons of presents, and huge spreads of food. My point is that there was no stress as far as his first Christmas, and we don’t need to stress ourselves about ours. He doesn’t expect us to have a “perfect” Christmas. A “perfect” Christmas to him is us remembering his birth, dwelling on him, and keeping him in our lives even during this busy season.
Remember Jesus’ humble beginnings. He doesn’t expect a “perfect” Christmas and doesn’t want us to be stressed. However, we must also remind ourselves that it’s not worth stressing ourselves this time of year.
Here are some reminders of why it’s better to take a deep breath and do your best to keep stress at bay:
1. Stress Affects Your Health
We all know that stress affects your health, from small amounts to enormous amounts. It all adds up. Stress can lead to panic attacks, strokes, heart attacks, etc. When you feel yourself getting upset or worked up, take a deep breath and close your eyes for a few seconds. Count to ten or twenty and then open your eyes and refocus. The last thing you want or need is a medical emergency during the holidays.
2. Stress Affects Our Relationships
When we’re stressed, it causes us to be grumpy and moody, which affects our relationships. We are grumpy with our spouses and snap at our kids. Our coworkers notice because we are in a bad mood often.
3. Stress Affects Our Sleep Patterns
Stress not only messes with our health and our moods, but it also affects our sleep. Take some time and plan a bedtime routine that will be calming and relaxing for you to help defuse your daily stress this season. Getting enough sleep is the key to feeling refreshed and restored.
4. Let Go of the “To-do” List
Look at your calendar and what you have going on this upcoming holiday season and take an honest assessment. If you have too much on your plate, it’s not too late to bow out of some things to get some much-needed stress relief. You will thank yourself in the long run, and if someone doesn’t understand why, don’t feel guilty about it.
5. Let Go of Appearances
Despite what the influencers say and do, your friends and family don’t expect a “picture perfect” home, and neither should you. I mean, this is life and we live in it. Our homes will not be perfect without a speck of dirt or look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. Stop scrolling social media and feeling guilty about what your home looks like regardless of its beautiful decorations, a giant tree with mounds of presents, or an elaborate spread on the table. That is not realistic for most people. You do Christmas “your way.” Trust me, your friends and family will still love you, regardless. (Besides, I guarantee you, behind the scenes, those influencers have dishes piled in the sink and dirty bathrooms that no one sees.)
6. Let Go of Expectations
Don’t let anyone else’s expectations ruin your holiday. This is regardless if it’s an outside influence like social media, your family members, or your friends. You know your limits and what you can and cannot do. Don’t let anyone pressure you into expectations that you cannot meet.
7. Stress Affects Our Appetites
Let’s face it, most of us have no problems packing on a few extra pounds over the holidays. There is just too much good stuff to eat. However, adding stress only makes our cravings worse and can cause us to overeat, snack too much, or eat too many sweets. On the other hand, it causes some of us to eat too little, which can be just as unhealthy.
Then when the new year comes, we stress about how we are going to lose the pounds we gained over the holidays, or how we're going to bulk back that muscle we lost, and the cycle starts all over again. Make sure you drink plenty of water, limit the alcohol, and limit sugary snacks because sugar stresses the body. Also, instead of feasting, “sample” things and eat less. You can also strive to eat slower so your body will tell you when you are full.
8. Stress Increases Anxiety
When we’re stressed, it causes us to be anxious, which causes us to think about the future and worry about it. To combat this, we should be more mindful and savor the present moment, enjoying our holidays minute by minute. We need to enjoy the moment we are in and take in what’s going on around us, which can ease anxiety and keep us from thinking apprehensively.
9. Stress Messes with Our Focus
When we’re stressed, it can affect our ability to think and focus. This is because we have so much other stuff going on in our lives and our brains. If you feel yourself losing focus because of other thoughts, take a minute and write down what those thoughts are and how they make you feel. Take this list to God in prayer. Being able to focus on what’s stressing you and why you are feeling the way you are should help clear your mind so you can get back to what you need to focus on.
10. Stress Takes Our Eyes Off Jesus
It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s stressing us out that we forget to look up to the One we count on for help. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to “fix it” or “make it work” that we put too much pressure on ourselves. Then we get frustrated about why it’s not working. Trust me, I’ve been there. Stress can also affect our prayer life because we are so focused on the issue that we don’t think to pray about it.
Instead, we need to stop fighting what’s stressing us and go to the Lord and ask for help, apologizing for not going to him first. He will help us out in his timing as long as we keep praying about what we need. Amid stress, it’s easy to think that nothing is happening, but he is always working behind the scenes for our greater good.
There are many things that can stress us around the holidays, and it’s so important not to let those things overwhelm us. By remembering the effects of stress and finding a balance between our holiday obligations, things we want to do, and a routine of relaxation, we can have the best Christmas ever.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Iuliia Zavalishina