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Combating the Three F's of Holiday Stress

Holiday Anxiety;  How not to let the Holidays stress you out.

Holidays can be an anxious time.  For many it is a time filled with pressure to make it perfect and for others sad reminder of what is missing from your life.  Some will dread the holidays, others will use it as an escape.  Many of us love the holidays and want them to be ideal and we want to treasure the Joys of Christmas.    How do you keep the joy in Christmas when life can be so challenging sometimes?

Combating the Three F’s of Holiday Stress:

Frenetic Activity  - Most of us are already busy without the extra demands of holiday activities.  Once the holidays hit it becomes difficult to manage the pressures of extra parties, to do lists, shopping trips, card sending and home decorating.  We often kick into high gear and then droop with fatigue and then kick into high gear and then droop, and on the cycle goes. 

We started our Christmas shopping this year with our two little ones in tow and admit it was less than ideal.  Bribing them with a chance to purchase their own little $3.00 toy we bravely hit the stores.  Admittedly the kids were pretty good, but my 4 1/2 year old wanted to push the cart up and down all of the isles at TJ Max.  I tried to stay with her but soon realized she was never where I needed to be to find gifts, so I ventured out keeping a wary eye on her activities nearby.   Occasionally I would see her wiz by gleefully.  She nearly ran a store clerk over and she almost knocked some dishes on the floor before we decided maybe we had been in the store too long and it was time to try the next one.  

We came home fatigued ready for bed and ready to leave the dishes in the sink overnight so we could crash.  Sound familiar?  Maybe you don’t have the gleeful kiddos crashing into things but you certainly have the demands of extra holiday stress.  Be sure to simplify your schedule; eat out, get fast food, use paper plates, say no to some things, stuff a pile of unfolded laundry in the corner and pull out your clothes as needed.  sometimes it’s just not worth it to keep up the pace and do it all perfectly. 

Family -  The holidays are always a time for Christmas joy right?  Wrong.  Sometimes they are a time for grief, anger, or pressure to do things you don’t want to do.  Criticism from family members is a common problem many people face.  Families divided over past hurts have to face each other and decide whether or not to spend time together without bringing up the past.  Many of us feel anxiety about facing our family issues and are nervous about setting healthy boundaries.  

It is also common to feel grief at the loss of a loved one.  If a beloved family member has died the Christmas festivities just bring up a new wave of sadness and missing the person we loved.  Newly divorced men and women have to figure out how to spend the holiday time remembering last year they were an intact family.  Possibly friends have been lost, loyalties have shifted and the holidays make you feel hurt all over again. 

How do we get past all of the family stress to enjoy some of the Joy of Christmas?  First of all we need to realize the holiday is not really for us.  It is a celebration of Jesus’ birth to save us from our sins and to heal our hurts.  It is an act of worship to lovingly put up the lights and play the Christmas music.  If we remember that the true joy of Christmas is that we have been given the biggest second chance ever considered fathomable, then it is a time for joy.  A sense of relief comes when we realize with all of our imperfections that we are loved dearly by the King of Kings who came as a babe to demonstrate the unconditional love of the Father. 

Family issues aside, we are loved and that is worthy of celebration! 

Finances - In a down economy many of us are wary of any spending during the holidays.  Around 14 years ago I used to keep a tight budget writing down every penny I would spend on my paper ledger before bed.  However, when the holidays came up I would stop.  I would intentionally go into a bubble of denial for about two months and then start tracking my spending again sometime in February.   I had no idea how much I was spending because Christmas was supposed to be big. 

In my family growing up it was always big.   Oodles and oodles of presents would just keep coming.  My family liked to spend so I tried to keep up but realistically on my budget I couldn’t keep up so it went on the credit cards.  There was an unspoken rule that you had to buy several nice and special gifts for each person in the family.  Now I am married, have kids and have two, well three, sides of the family to buy for plus kids.  We can no longer be in denial about what we have to spend and we DO NOT use credit cards anymore.   As a family we sit down and decide what we can realistically spend and then we go out with our calculator and keep track.  

It is important to realize that shopping on a budget can be can almost be a game to see how many great deals you can find.  Many of you shop on Black Friday to bring cost down but I personally find it too stressful and shut down like a deer in headlights when stores are that busy with crazed shoppers trying to find the best deals.  We have found that Ross, TJ Max, and other stores always run discounts and if you are willing to look thoroughly you can find some great gifts.  

Keep in mind that Christmas is a special time but it is not an excuse to be excessive and irresponsible with finances.  I read recently that bank robberies go up before the holidays probably due to pressure to provide gifts.  Now, most of you won't go that far but if you can’t do much this year then admit it and be creative.   It is not worth it to strain your finances to keep everyone else happy.  Sometimes it is okay to admit that you have to hold back.  If family members are disappointed then let it go.  Remember what the holiday really is about and stay focused on the relationships that are important to you.  Make cookies and hot cocoa, and enjoy the worshipful music that fills the airways every year, go sledding or do something fun. 

Truthfully, some stress is unavoidable but if you can keep perspective then it can be a whole lot easier.  Three F's can also keep us on track:

Flexibility - Be flexible with scheduling.  If you need to change plans last minute then roll with it.  If something needs to change or not be included in the holiday repertoire then let it go!  Sometimes it is not worth the stress to try to do it all perfectly.

Focus - Focus on what is important.  Relationships are important but having the perfect dinner is not. If you ruin the potatoes, laugh it off and set them aside.  If you forgot to buy bows, leave them off this year.  Bows aren't and laughter is.  Focus on what is important and let the little details go. 

Fun - If you aren't having any fun and the people around you are miserable because you are demanding perfection then something is off.  Don't forget to have fun, relax and laugh a little! 


I pray you have a wonderful holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!


In him-Gretchen





by Gretchen Flores