Like a whirlwind, school starts, then Halloween, Thanksgiving, and before you know it, you’re catapulted into December. It can feel busy and out-of-control for many moms. But, it doesn’t have to. If Christmas feels stressful rather than peaceful, keep reading, because you can reduce stress during the Holiday Season.
It’s not easy.
Inevitably, there are extra things to do. Extra programming, baking, events, shopping, and more. It can feel like the list goes on and on.
But this year, you can take back control. God has given us the greatest gift of all. Let’s celebrate and reduce stress. Here are our 7 tips.
7 Tips for Moms to Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season
1. Got Stress? Identify Your Sources to Reduce Stress During the Holiday Season
You can’t eliminate what you can’t name. The first tip? Take a few minutes to really think about the source of your Holiday stress. Name it. Then, keep reading to find out how to reduce it.
While there are many stressors during December, here are some common ones that may be affecting you:
- Stressful Holiday guests of family members
- Grieving a loved one
- Hallmark-Movie Unrealistic expectations
- Busyness with Obligations
- End-of-year tax, work, or household stress
Take some moments to yourself, identify, and write down what’s stressing you.
2. Turn Your Stressors into Prayers.
The best source of strength for a mom? God, plain and simple. He’s given us a surefire way to destress; talk to Him about it. Pray about it. If you have trustworthy friends, ask them to pray about it as well.
There are many reasons to pray. Here’s how it can reduce stress during the Holiday Season:
- Prayer relinquished control from you to God. You are verbally committing to relying on Him. Prayer will change your heart. It may not change your situation, but it will give you new eyes to see it.
- You will find Truth when you pray. God tells us not to worry, that He loves you more than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, of which He takes great care. He will also take care of you. When you know this truth, stressors automatically reduce
3. Repeat After Me, “No.”
I’m talking about extra activities, obligations, and “Holiday” tasks. You can, and should, say “no” to some.
First, decide if it’s absolutely necessary. If it is, fine.
If not, decide if it’s worth your time, effort, and stress. One way to become clear about unnecessary obligations is to realize that every “Yes” to that obligation is a “No” to something else.
That “something else” maybe your mental health and stress, your family, time with God, or quiet and relaxing downtime.
Even if the task or event sounds fun and cheerful, become very mindful and proactive about choosing your extra activities. If possible, reduce it to just a couple of busy nights per week (and 4-5) not-so-busy. Yes, even during this Holiday Season.
And if you need a “nicer” way to say it than “no,” simply say “I wish I could, but I can’t.” You can leave out: “Because I feel too busy, I value quiet evenings, I want to reduce stress during the Holiday Season.”
“I wish I could, but I can’t.” Leave it at that. If we all reduced the busyness, we’d all reduce stress during the Holiday Season.
4. Shift Your Focus to People and Quality Time, Rather than Stuff and To-Dos
We live in a commercialized world, and it’s never more apparent than the weeks before Christmas. It can be difficult to focus on what matters, and less material things. It can be especially difficult to lead your children in this challenge.
The Christmas mornings I’ve regretted most are those that find my children tearing through one package after another, hardly noticing the one before or who gave it.
But, we can be diligent to help our kids, and ourselves, really focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and the gift of Jesus Christ.
Some strategies include:
- Use an advent calendar to focus on the birth of Christ. You can download one. You can make an easy one on your normal calendar. For the last few years I’ve actually cut a printed out the Christmas story into 25 sections. Each night I hide the chronologically ordered section, and give an easy clue to the kids to find it. As they find them day after day, they tape the story together and read as we go. It’s hard to miss the Christmas story when you read it for 25 days straight!
- Consider only one meaningful gift instead of many small ones for each child or combined.
- Talk to family members and grandparents about meaningful gifts, or gifts that provide activities (zoo passes, swimming lessons, etc.), rather than material things.
- Involve your children in giving to others by putting together a charity shoebox, ringing a bell for donations, and working at a soup kitchen.
- Simply talk to your kids and loved one lower the expectations to a comfortable level for your family. There is simply no reason to go into debt for Christmas presents, despite what the neighbors down the street do.
As you reflect on the finances versus the gifts given on the first Christmas, it’s easy to see how far we’ve strayed. This year, you can set your family’s course with a better focus and gifting expectations.
5. If You’re Grieving, Allow Yourself the Space to Do So
There’s simply no way around it, for many, the Holidays are also a time of grief.
Thankfully, God doesn’t ask us to pretend that everything is always perfect. In fact, He’s always chosen to meet us in our imperfection, in our grief, in our sadness and loneliness, as well as our joy.
If possible, surround yourself with loved ones who understand your grief. Reach out to friends. And pray.
You don’t have to pretend that it’s all beautiful wreaths and sparkly gifts.
6. If You Suffer from Seasonal Depression, Find Small Things to Help
Wintertime depression is a real thing, and the Holidays are smack in the middle of it. Not only do they occur at the darkest time of the year, they can also add a bunch of stressing triggers to depression. Some strategies to fight it include:
- Get out into the sunshine, even on cold days, every day.
- Work time into your schedule for laughter. There are many clean, hilarious comedians, books, and podcasts out there.
- Add a potent fish oil supplement, with a 2:1 milligram ratio of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Aim for about 1000 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA, each day throughout the Winter Season (1).
- Add Vitamin D. If you think you may be low, get your total vitamin D checked. If you think you just need to maintain levels, take 1000 IU per day throughout the Winter Season. (2)
- Prioritize sleep. Winter sleep fights depression, disease and sickness, and more, so do your best to get a good 6+, or even better, 8 hours per night (3).
As moms, you may not be able to do all of the above. Do what you can!
7. Get Real with Your Expectations and Choose Joy Over Grand
Even though we all know that Hallmark Christmas movies are not real life, it’s easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Movies, Facebook and Instagram feeds, and childhood memories can all cloud our expectations. They set us up for failure and less joy.
Lower your expectations. Consider listing 3 things you really want for the Season, and focus on these alone. Everything else will be the icing on the cake. For example, I want to:
- Finish my shopping, and wrapping by December 10th.
- Fill a shoebox and send it to charity.
- Go to a Christmas Eve church service.
That is it. It’s not grand.
In fact, it may seem too simple and easy, but that’s the point.
If you also make cookies, watch “It’s a Beautiful Life,” go sledding, or anything else, that’s great! But if not, choose to not be disappointed and delight in meeting your low expectations for the Holidays.
Lower, and get real with your expectations this year. Choose joy over grand.
It’s not society, or companies, or our friends that have pushed us over the Holiday edge. It’s our own choices. And this year, we can choose to reduce stress during the Holidays and choose joy instead. While you may not be able to control it all, you can control some of it. And that’s enough.