Joy to the World……this weekend our Christmas tree went up, I love this time of year – the carols, putting up decorations, having a real tree, time with people, giving gifts and most of all reflecting how Jesus’ birth changed my life forever! But the thing is this jolly old ho ho Merry Christmas time of year also holds the potential to be a bit of a frenzy full of expectations and obligations. Whether we are a family with young children, a blended family, a single parent, an empty nester. married with no children, a single adult person (including divorced, widowed) Christmas for any of us can lead to more stress than any other time of year.
The juggling act of many events and people to squeeze in along with the pressure of expectations can escalate before we know it. Between work deadlines, planning for holidays, end of year functions, schools finishing up, kids being at home more, decorations to put up, menus to plan, baking to be done, presents to purchase and relatives/friends to visit along with normal everyday life there is not much margin to breathe sometimes.
It is quite possible that in a season where we want to experience peace and joy we can miss out. Over recent weeks, I have been thinking what would wisdom say and have come up with five wisdom steps we can take to manage stress this Christmas season
Create and stick to a holiday budget
With rising debt and mismanagement of money across the World financial stress is reaching epic proportions. Never is it seen more than at Christmas time when pressures of buying presents, having treats and holidays come into the equation of normal life. The stress of finances being overstretched is heartbreaking to see and even worse for those who have to face this consequence that they could have avoided.
Planning (and recording down on paper, phone or laptop) the actual money amount we can afford (not the wish washy would like to as I so love everyone amount) and sticking to it is essential for getting successfully through this season.
It really helps if we budget sensibly which includes having a budget for the Christmas treats and meals (the budget may allow for a beautiful roast turkey but not two other meat dishes as well – that is okay!) Holiday activities need to be included – going away is a cost even if you live in a country where it is summer and can go camping…. budget the cost.
The challenge is most of us want to be generous and associate this with meaning spending money but this does not have to be the case. Consider a very simple low budget Christmas gift year or gift a service e.g. babysitting for your sister if the cash flow is tight. Anything that goes on a credit card or causes you to be in overdraft is not wise. It is a recipe for stress not only at Christmas but also for many months of the New Year as there is such a struggle to pay it off. Christmas debt is never is fun once the tree is pulled down and the new year rolls in with all its financial requirements.
Establish priorities and plan
Getting out our trusty mobile phone, laptop or good old notebook to prioritize and plan will save bucket loads of stress. One great way to keep on top of things is to divide out the following sections:
Presents – here is where we list who giving to, budget, gift ideas and I also make sure I record what I buy. I find this being written down helps me so much.
Events – list out what you and your family are saying yes to on what date – make sure you pop all these into an easier to view calendar for all of your family to see not just you as the head controller! I am no expert, but I reckon it is never too early to start to show kids what the calendar looks like for the family and how priorities influence this.
Menu for events at your home – list what you plan to cook, who is bringing what and to what event if you have several (don’t try to keep all this in your head!) And a handy heads up on how to treat your guests – let them know a few weeks out so they too can plan please do not tell them a week out “oh can you bring some drink and a dessert.” 🙂
If it helps jot down what you are bringing to events outside of your home too – especially if you are making things so you can leave enough time to buy ingredients and actually make it! NB: that tip is probably just for me as I get so many grandiose ideas on what I would like to make each year!! This also relates to helping us to beware of how much we are spending and whether we need to chose a not so expensive recipe if we are going over our budget.
Miscellaneous – the list could go on as to what areas you can have but as each of you have different things you need to plan for I will whoa here! The essential thing is to write down things and place them into the calendar to do. Breaking things into steps by planning goes a long way to avoiding the mad rush to the supermarket on Christmas Eve to buy cream or Nanna’s present!
Remember the why of Christmas
This is my favorite one – I have grown increasingly aware of the need to be intentional about keeping the reason for this amazing celebration at the forefront of what we do not merely a tick the box went to church at Christmas experience. It is lovely having presents, a beautiful meal and I believe this is part of the celebration of Jesus birth as Christians (Jesus loves big parties and celebrations!), BUT none of this needs to be perfect nor should it be an elaborate affair at the expense of losing the meaning.
Remembering Jesus’ birth and, therefore, planning our priorities around this will reflect in us using wisdom to budget, not over committing nor trying to live up to any idealistic but unrealistic expectations. This then allows room for fun and meaning that does not lead to us to wind up tight as a coil or try to produce a perfect Martha Steward Home For Christmas home!
Say NO – many things can wait until the New Year.
I know this can be hard to do especially if you are a social person or Aunt Daisy really wants you to visit before Christmas Day….but we really do need to take stock here and not be a yes always person. Slowing down before saying yes to think and decide how much capacity you have to fit one more thing in is wise. Being super busy leading up to Christmas does not get us any awards.
Continue healthy habits
I just had to sneak this one in here…I know you love me for mentioning this…ha! I am not being the no treat police here but what I am wanting to encourage us all in is that abandoning all healthy living (exercise and food and rest) over the whole of December into January will do you no favors. Stress is influenced by what we feed ourselves and whether we exercise. Treats are fun and good but keep the balance here – your body and soul will be thankful!
There are so many other tips, tricks and organizational ideas that could be shared, but I want to encourage each of us around these simple five – so we can slow down and wisen up enough to adopt these as regular year in year out Christmas habits with the aim to having a much less stressful Christmas, therefore, a more deeply meaningful and joyous one.
Enjoy the beauty of this time of year both in your relationship with God and others – let it be rich in love, joy, and peace…oh and one of my favorites – fun!