Stopping Christmas Stress in Its Tracks

Well, as promised, it has been a l-o-o-o-ng time since you have heard from me. I don’t know if you were thinking about Christmas in January as you tried to keep New Year’s Resolutions or in April as the flowers started to bloom or in September as the new school year started. I can honestly tell you that I haven’t bought any gifts yet except for a few stocking stuffers, and I’ve been ignoring my few Facebook friends who like to occasionally taunt me with memes like this:

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Wow, do we really not have anything better to do than think about Christmas almost 4 months ahead of time? Besides the fact that half of those memes are not accurate about how many more days or weeks there are. They get posted, then shared for a few weeks, and people don’t bother to check their calendars. If Facebook says it’s 15 weeks until Christmas, then it must be true, right?

To tell you the truth, a few years ago, I would have been panicking about the fact that it is now only about 9 weeks until Christmas. In previous years, I have been mostly finished shopping by Halloween. Some years I was writing out my card list and getting ready to start wrapping gifts at this point. But when I really thought about it, I realized that Christmas is one day! And no one day, no matter how special, is worth 3 or 4 months of preparation. I had to simplify.

I still think October is too early to get overly concerned about Christmas. It’s on my radar, but barely. Women’s ministry at church had to set a date for the cookie swap and luncheon. I took a peek at when the last day of school was and what Christmas vacation looked like. There are some things that it makes sense to do in October. My next post will go into some detail about what those are and why it makes sense to wait to do some other things.

I know most of the retail world is not on board with my simplified Christmas, but that is nothing new. I decided a long time ago that stores were not going to dictate my shopping habits to me. Last week, I walked into Bon Ton and saw this:

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Does the sight of Christmas decorations in October make you break out in a cold sweat? Does it make you feel behind in your planning and shopping? Take a breath. You are the one who decides when it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. It’s a process. It takes time to change habits and ingrained patterns of thinking.

If Christmas gives you joy and you enjoy decorating, shopping, planning and thinking about it for months every year, I’m not here to tell you there’s anything wrong with that. You don’t need this site, though. There are lots of sites out there for you!  If Christmas mostly stresses you out and you dread it, though, I encourage you to set firm limits on how much of your time and energy it consumes. You are the people this site aims to encourage, to support, and to help find a better way.

It’s not going to harm anyone if you send a Christmas email instead of cards this year. It may actually benefit your family if you sit them down and explain that you need to stay sane this holiday season, so you won’t be doing some of the things you’ve done in the past. More about that later. The point is, sometimes we feel trapped by the things we think are necessary to the Christmas experience of those we care about. If we don’t bake the cookies, our family will suffer. If we don’t send out fancy cards, our friends will think we won’t care.

In fact, if you courageously draw a line and refuse to do the things that stress you out, you will be pleasantly surprised at how little the people around you actually care. And if they do react initially, you will be surprised at how quickly they adjust to the new normal. In many cases, we overestimate the importance of having to do everything the same way every year. It’s okay to change things up and say no to being over-busy and stressed.

So right here, right now, banish Christmas stress this year. Just don’t allow it to come into your life. When it knocks at your door or tries to climb in the window or sneaks in through the back door and tries to sit right on your chest, you just come visit this site again, maybe take a read of my ebook “Taming the Christmas Monster,” and tell yourself that Christmas is about faith first, family second, and showing love to others third. There is simply no room for stress!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Hardly a day goes by in my life now when Christmas isn’t mentioned or represented in some way. The stores are decorating, the road the mall is on is decorated, and one of my students even saw someone bringing home a live Christmas tree on their car the other day. My tree is dry enough by New Years, thanks. I will wait until after Thanksgiving.

My reaction to the people around me who are talking about Christmas and the Facebookers posting about Christmas has been a very firm “It’s too early.” The cartoon above sums up how I feel about it very well. Let me enjoy Thanksgiving and spend some time being thankful before you start bombarding me with Black Friday ads and wrapping paper sales.

It’s very ironic that we spend a day expressing thankfulness for all our blessings, then immediately, sometimes even an hour after eating, go into an intense focus on all the things we don’t yet have. Before the leftovers are even cleared away, family members are rushing out to the Black Friday sales. This will probably happen in my own extended family, and I just think it’s a shame that people consider it so important to get these things that they need to go out on Thanksgiving night. I love my family, that’s just how I feel about that issue. We can love each other and disagree.

I’m thankful for so many things this year. At the top of the list are my husband, who is wonderful to me every day of the year in a thousand ways, and for the way God has allowed my writing to grow this year. This blog and my other one, www.nextlevelfaith.com, as well as my two Kindle book,s 7 Days to a Closer Relationship with God and Taming the Christmas Monster, are a testament to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling my lifelong dream to be a writer. And from what I understand, this is just the beginning.

If you really think about it, you will realize that you are very blessed. If you have access to a computer on which to read this blog, you have so much more than most people in the world do. I hope that in addition to being blessed with material things, you have also been blessed with things you can’t hold in your hand: people to love and who love you in return, joy and an optimistic attitude, fulfilling work, and a personal relationship with your Creator.

God bless you this Thanksgiving. Please enjoy the time with family and friends, and think about what you’re thankful for. Post your comments below!