Is It Possible to Have a Stress-free Christmas?

Is It Possible to Have a Stress-free Christmas?

Many would say no.  At least very few have ever experienced a stress-free Christmas.  Even the first Christmas was not stress free.  Mary and Joseph were under social pressure because they were pregnant before they were married – something that was more shunned in the time of Christ’s birth than today.  They had to travel by walking or riding on a donkey while nine months pregnant to Bethlehem to register for the census.  When all the hotels were full, they had to find a place to stay at the very time Mary was giving birth.  Let’s not forget that this couple was living in obedience to the Holy Spirit, yet they did have stress.  if the first Christmas was like that, it may not be possible to have a stress-free Christmas.  But it is possible to experience peace.

As I was writing this blog post I received an email from a realtor entitled, “Ten Tips for a Healthy, Stress-Free Holiday”.  I’m not kidding!  You can’t make this stuff up.  There were some good tips offered:  1. Make a budget for gifts and stick to it,  2. Keep a master list of holiday tasks and stay organized, and 3. Get plenty of sleep.  These are great ideas for managing stress, but I doubt they will make your life stress-free.

The truth is that life is stress-filled and Christmas can exacerbate that stress.  Life at Christmas speeds up and more is packed in.  There are Christmas parties, gifts to buy, more work to get done with the year end approaching and days off, school events, and even church gatherings can add to the crunch.  Let’s not forget the decorations, food preparation, and greeting cards.

Tips on a stress-free Christmas usually have to do with planning better, managing your time more effectively, or avoidance.  These three approaches each have some value.  Certainly planning your schedule can help.  One family I know said they refuse to schedule two nights out in a row regardless of what the social expectation may be.  This gives them time to recuperate.  Time management can also help reduce some stress.  However, if you haven’t thought of doing this back in September, it may be too late.  Your schedule is full, and the count down is in single digits.  If you are not an organized person (Green), this may be a challenge for you anyway!  Many tips revolve around avoiding stress.  One way to do that is to say no – something very hard for many of us.  We don’t want to disappoint others, or risk the wrath of others.

In the end, most stress that we experience at Christmas is connected to relationships.  People have expectations, demands, and requirements.  None of us want to have broken relationships so we feel the stress of trying to navigate these mine fields.  Because we are all doing this, we are often on edge when we gather with family.  The holiday is ripe for conflict.

The best tip I can give you for navigating stress this Christmas is not to manage your time, plan better, or avoid stress(you can’t avoid stress at Christmas).  Remember to live more self-aware of your own conflict sequence.  When we go into conflict (stress) we often have physiological changes like an eye that twitches, or a leg that taps, or our hands get sweaty.  These are all signs that you are moving into your conflict sequence.  Be aware of when this is happening because you can better control your behavior when you are aware of what is happening in you.  Remember what is important to you (MVS), and be careful to use strengths with others that will achieve the results you are looking for.  Avoid overdoing your strengths (mine is to overdone persuasion about what I want done which comes across to others as aggressive).  Be aware of what your overdone strengths are so you can choose another strength and keep from triggering conflict in others.

You have been equipped in relational intelligence where others may not be.  Use your knowledge to navigate the tense situations that arise by recognizing what is happening in others.  Don’t allow others to trigger you further into conflict.  Their behavior will let you know they are in conflict.  Help them get back to what is important to them so the stress level can be lowered.  As Scripture teaches us, live with understanding of one another.

Christ came to bring peace on earth.  You can also be a facilitator of peace this Christmas season.  You are equipped with relational intelligence, but applying this knowledge requires your soul needs to be fully met in Christ alone.  The Gospel of Christ that we celebrate in the birth, death, and resurrection informs us of God’s faithful and eternal love.  His love addresses the three passions of our souls – to be accepted, to be secure, and to have meaning and purpose (significant).  Our failure to love others in stress is related to our desire to fill those needs with other people.  Remember the love of Christ and be free to love even when others don’t seem to be loving towards you.  Be light in the darkness.

May your Christmas not be stress-free, but may you bring peace into the stress.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.