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By Nancy Williams,
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach

CBN.com“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” The sights. The sounds. The greetings that flow so freely as family, friends, even strangers, join together to express love, joy, peace, hope, and goodwill with such generous spirit.

Things are stirring all around, including shoppers out in search of that hard-to-find gift for someone special. Kitchen ovens are working overtime to create scrumptious holiday treats. Jimmy Stewart, Charlie Brown, and Bing Crosby are making their annual visit into our homes with favorite holiday classics while vying for television time with the Food Network’s entertaining tips. The moon and stars get help illuminating the night sky from lights adorning our homes as sounds of Christmas music echo through the air. The eyes of children twinkle with excitement as they attempt to balance curiosity and patience while waiting for Santa’s visit.

It’s also a most hectic time of year as we attempt to pack so much into this month. Storeowners beckon us to come early and stay late to take advantage of all the sales. Party invitations are arriving as our children rehearse for school performances. Neighbors have their houses and yards lit, wondering when we’ll join them. There are holiday treats to bake, cards to address, gifts to wrap, trees to decorate, preparation for guests who’ll be visiting, not to mention the projects that have end-of-the-year deadlines. We make list after list, get up extra early, and stay up extra late. Hurry, hurry, hurry. We stretch our minds, our bodies, and our bank accounts to get everything done.

But can we really do everything we think we should, everything we hear we’re supposed to do, and still have any energy left to celebrate the season? If we’re not careful, the stress will drain us of the joy that is meant to be treasured at this most special time of year.

Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Coaching colleague and friend Evelyn Kaufman (www.journey2fulness.com) offers some tips for managing the holiday season. I’m including some of her thoughts, woven in along with my own, to help you move confidently and successfully through these next few weeks so you’ll have time and energy for the true spirit of the season.

Tip #1 – Create your strategic holiday plan. While this may take a little time, it will save you time and stress later on. Begin by clarifying your overall focus: what does this season mean to you? What is of value that you want to cherish? Next, what do you want to experience: what are your goals? Once you have identified them, then you can begin to estimate cost, time, and steps needed to accomplish these goals. Be sure to include details such as the following:

  • Business gifts/cards you need to send
  • Gifts for family and friends
  • Your decorating plan
  • Events you are hosting or assisting with
  • School events you want to attend. Check to see if there are admission requirements (ex: canned goods or toys)
  • Dishes you need to prepare for parties or events
  • Party invitations
  • Tools like tape, wrapping paper, ribbon, stamps, and baking supplies you’ll need to have on hand
  • Projects to be completed for end-of-the-year deadlines
  • Opportunities to combine events or tasks to save travel or preparation time
  • Family time
  • Church and community programs you want to enjoy

Once you’ve made a list of events and tasks, review to be certain your expectations are realistic in terms of time, energy, and finances. What’s appropriate? What’s reasonable for you and your family for this year? While traditions have their place and opportunities abound, there are times when we must make adjustments to adapt to life changes. You may need to eliminate some things in order to prevent overextending yourself and missing the time and energy needed to honor your primary focus. Don’t get so absorbed with the details that you miss the joy to be found in this most important season of the year.

Tip #2 – Form alliances with family members or others. Involve them in the planning and prioritizing and ask for their assistance in meeting goals. Manage and delegate, as opposed to doing everything yourself. Some ideas for involvement by others:

  • Have children decorate craft paper for wrapping paper and personal greeting cards for the family.
  • Have older children help wrap gifts and assist with cooking.
  • Make shopping lists and cluster tasks to organize your trips to the store. Consider shopping locally and also online.
  • Check out local grocery stores and restaurants for deli trays and prepared foods you can take for parties instead of something homemade. If you absolutely have to do homemade items, try to make two to three trays/dishes at a time to save preparation time.
  • Consider businesses that offer assistance with food preparation, house cleaning, and indoor/outdoor decorating.

Tip #3 – Make this an enjoyable, meaningful time for the family.

  • Find fun opportunities for family members to participate in preparation activities and share that time together.
  • Turn tasks into challenges. Whoever wraps the most presents (and wraps them well, of course) gets to pick a movie for everyone to watch while you're decorating cookies. Or, let them out of the next chore by "winning" this one.
  • Sing carols as you work together.
  • Don’t let the busyness of the season take away your time for family meals together.
  • Gather as a family and read the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus.

Tip #4 – Don’t overdo it -- with anything.Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. That includes working, spending, eating, drinking, or being merry. Overindulging in any of these areas is draining afterward. Eat healthy. Exercise. Set a budget and stick to it. Make sure to schedule in some time to rest and relax, to unwind and then refuel your mind and body.

Tip #5 – Be flexible. Hitches are going to happen, even with the most well-thought-out plan. Give yourself a break and don’t stress out. Instead, take a step back and reevaluate your plan, making adjustments as necessary while preserving the primary focus of this season.

Tip #6 – Treat yourself with little things that bring joy and meaning to the season.

  • Listen to music.
  • Light candles.
  • Take warm, soothing baths.
  • Read holiday stories.
  • Tickle your sense of humor.
  • Connect with family and friends.
  • Give something – your time, your talent, an offering – that will make the season a little brighter for someone else.
  • Slip away from tasks, lists, and worries, even from friends and family, for a quiet moment alone. Be still. Take deep breaths and let your mind focus on the true meaning of this season as you open your heart to receive your most precious gift: God’s love, given to you through the birth of His son, Jesus.

My Christmas wish for you? May this season arrive on wings of hope and be decorated with joy; and may the music of angels fill your heart with peace. Merry Christmas.

More Christmas articles on CBN.com


Copyright © 2007 Nancy Williams. Used by permission.

Nancy WilliamsNancy Williams maintains a private counseling practice in Houston, Texas, providing counseling, coaching, and consulting services to adults in a Christian setting. Nancy has a special interest in supporting women facing various life management issues, with a focus on personal growth, healing, and spiritual renewal. An experienced conference speaker, teacher, and writer, Nancy weaves together warmth, wit, and wisdom as she genuinely connects with her listeners and challenges them to live their best life.

Nancy also enjoys writing an inspirational newspaper column focusing on life management entitled “Keeping Your Balance,” currently appearing in six weekly community papers in the northeast Houston, Texas, area. Keeping Your Balance…Finding Your Way (Copyright © 2004) is a collection of some of her early columns. She also writes frequently for The Forest Image, a bimonthly news magazine. Nancy can be reached through her Web site: www.nancywilliams.net.

 

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