Christmas is a very special time of year. Yet how easy it is to become caught up in the busyness of the season! Instead of filling our lives with the peace of Christ’s presence, the world draws us into the very opposite emotional state: rushed, stressful, frantically struggling to finish those last few things before the holidays.
Where does all this stress come from anyway? Stress is a response to a stimulus, either pressures imposed from our external environment, or internally from ourselves. In small amounts, the neuroendocrine response to a stressor prepares us to deal with what confronts us. But over-stimulation or continual exposure to stressors is not healthy—it wears the body down.
While most of us know this, it’s hard to simply “de-stress”! Here are a few tips to help manage and deal with stress.
1) Take care of yourself. Make sure that you’re eating healthy and getting enough sleep. These are basic essentials; if you’re expecting to perform your best, you need to set yourself up for success.
2) Inhale and exhale deeply. Focusing on your breathing can help lower your heart rate and dissipate stressful and anxious feelings.
3) Soothe yourself. Take half an hour each day for some “me” time, and spend it doing something you find relaxing, such as reading a book, watching TV, or taking a hot bath.
4) Find an outlet. Stress builds up a lot of internal energy. Channeling this energy can help release some of the stress. Try doing something physical or creative, such as exercising, drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument.
Perspective is also key. Many things we find stressful right now are not really a big deal when we step back to look at the big picture. When it comes to truly stressful situations, turn to the Bible stories. Observe and learn from the people in them. Joseph, whose brothers threw him in a well and sold him into slavery. David, a young boy set to fight against the famous Philistine giant, Goliath, with only a small slingshot. Daniel, who was thrown to the lions and left for dead. Esther, who knew she had to tell the king about Haman’s plot to kill her people, although a visit to him could mean her own death.
In the New Testament, read about how Mary responded when the angel told her that she would bear God’s Son. In her culture, being unmarried and pregnant was punishable by being stoned to death. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before his death on the cross, contemplating his crucifixion. His anxiety was so great, he started sweating blood in anticipation. His response? He trusted in God, and prayed, “Father may this cup pass from me, but not my will, but Yours, be done”.
These faithful people were placed into extremely stressful situations, yet they remained calm, prayed and trusted in God, and He saw them through. God loves you just as much, and if the stressors you’re dealing with this holiday season are of a magnitude that is threatening to break apart your life or your family, know that He is there every step of the way, and He’ll see you through it.
God Bless, and have a stress-less Merry Christmas!