Maybe you’re looking forward to the holidays—the mad rush of shopping, cooking, gift-wrapping, and traveling—or maybe seeing Christmas decorations in the stores in October makes you cringe. Whether you’re gung-ho for the holiday season or gritting your teeth until New Year’s, here are five ways to hang on to your sanity this year and give yourself the gift that keeps on giving: focus on what matters most.
Simplify. Odds are you’re already being pulled in ten different directions, from Thanksgiving dinner plans to the Christmas play. None of us can do everything, but that doesn’t stop many of us from trying. Between the potlucks, office parties, and holiday get-togethers, it can be challenging to sift out what (and who) matters most. This year, free yourself from unnecessary stress by grabbing a calendar, identifying the most important celebrations and people, and prioritizing those. Keep it simple when shopping for gifts, too. Avoid giving beyond your means or out of a sense of duty.
Listen to your body.Taking care of our physical bodies is essential in all of life, even more so when things get hectic. Lack of sleep, dehydration, and too much sugar (Looking at you, peppermint bark!) active the body’s stress system. By not giving your body what it needs (healthy nourishing foods and lots of water) during an already-stressful time only lessens our ability to handle that stress, so eat your greens, eat your veggies, push away from the cookies, drink lots of water, and stick to your exercise routine—or just get out there and walk!
Just say “no.” At this point, you’ve already committed to the most important things, so give yourself the liberty to turn down extras. Saying “no, but thank you” is a gift that you give yourself; it affords you balance, freedom, and control over your time. It helps you build margin into your life.
Take a deep breathe. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you, your mind, and your body all benefit from time to sit back and just breathe. Long, deep breaths send signals to our brain that everything is okay and as it should be deactivating our stress response system. Don’t underestimate the power of taking a few minutes to breathe deeply. While you’re at it, count your blessings and enjoy your surroundings as many times per day as possible.
And if you remember anything, remember this: Do as the shepherds did. This holiday season, be careful not to get so tied up in bows and ribbons that you forget what’s being celebrated. When the shepherds heard the news of the long awaited Messiah’s birth, they made haste to worship him in Bethlehem. As much as it is in your power, make space to seek out the Lord Jesus and spend time worshiping Him, reflecting, and remembering what this season is all about. And maybe you will return from the holidays just as the shepherds returned to the fields: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Remember that the greatest Giver gave the greatest gift of all for you and for me. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” He was God’s peace and goodwill gift to us. Will you receive Him?
“O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”
Rachel is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a long history of working with women helping them discover their immeasurable worth and their God-given purpose in life. She is the Founder of Her Song, a local agency providing mental health support, survivor advocacy and a safe healing home for survivors of human trafficking. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.