By Rita Hancock
Holiday stress isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s sickening. It literally makes you physically ill if you let it—and many people do. I know that because I’m a pain management doctor and I counsel patients on how to minimize their Christmas-time stress to minimize their pain and other symptoms.
Are you ready for a surprise? In this article, I do NOT dwell on self-evident tips, like (1) get your Christmas shopping done early (DUH!); (2) stick to your budget (DUH!); (3) don’t over-eat (DUH!); and (4) get enough rest, pray more than ever, and exercise (DUH, DUH, DUH!). Like most people, you’ve probably heard these tips a thousand times but have trouble following through with them.
Rather, I give you something better than an idealistic check list. I give you actual understanding for why you get stressed out in the first at Christmas time. Probably, you believe lies about yourself at the subconscious level because of things the Accuser told you in the past.
Sadly, those lies trigger stress, especially during the holidays. That’s why you have to prayerfully reach into those innermost places where you hide the lies, grab hold of them and reject them, and ask God to replacing those false beliefs with His healing truth.
You can’t reject a belief unless you first grab hold of it, right? That’s what I help you do in this article.
I’m trying to find a polite way of saying that your holiday stress is all in your head. Keep in mind when a doctor says something like that, it’s more than just an opinion. It’s a diagnosis.
The truth is holiday stress is a much a matter of your beliefs, perceptions, and your mind-set as it is about your jam-packed “to-do” list. That’s why I offer you these seven stress-busting tips to help realign your mind set with godly truth:
- Holiday perfectionism is an assault from the enemy. You know which enemy I’m talking about: Satan. He wants you to lay unrealistic and unhealthy expectations not only on others but also on yourself. He wants you to believe your house has to be perfectly clean and beautifully decorated, the Christmas meal has to be perfectly amazing, and the Christmas gifts have to be exactly just right, or something very, very bad will happen. Come on! What happened to extending grace to each other?
- You are already good enough. Don’t believe what the women’s magazine headlines say. You don’t have to [bake a bazillion Christmas cookies, buy the perfect Christmas gifts, give only home-made gifts, attend every party you’re invited to, host a party, etc.] to be a good enough [parent, child, spouse, friend, employee, employer, teacher, student, etc.]. It’s like they take the “works” mentality from the rest of the year and magnify it a thousand-fold during the Christmas season! Hear me now: you are more than good enough as you are.
- You’re just as important as the people you’re trying to please. It’s nice to put others first and try to please them, but if you take this mentality to an extreme, you could get sick. Remember John 3:16: God loved YOU so much that He gave his Son for YOU, too—not just for other people. If you don’t take care of yourself, stop and consider why you don’t. Many people believe lies about themselves, like they’re bad, worthless, or not good enough. Those thoughts aren’t from God!
- Have no fear . Subconsciously, many of us fear being rejected if we don’t “perform” this time of year and live up to other people’s [sometimes unfair] expectations. Guess what. The world didn’t end the year I stopped sending out Christmas cards and baking Christmas cookies. Life went on. My friends are still my friends and my family is still my family. They just have fewer cavities.
- Other people’s happiness is not your responsibility. There’s a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is momentary and lasts for about three hours after you open that “perfect” present. However, deep-down joy is something you can’t give or receive as a Christmas gift—unless you’re talking about God’s gift to the world: Jesus Christ. The best thing you can do for your unsaved family and friends is to show them how stress-free and joyous you are and make them want what you have.
- Pick and choose which social events are most important. In reality, you might have to attend your office party to keep your job, but you shouldn’t have to go to the neighborhood Christmas party to keep your friends. There’s no harm in saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t make it to your party. You know how busy things are this time of year.” Even if others are disappointed, they’ll get over it.
- Trim the fat and make time for the important things (like “relationship”— with your friends and family and with the Lord Himself). What do I mean by “trim the fat”? Shop smarter. Shop online! Cook less! Bake less! Give your neighbors candles as gifts, instead of cookies that you broke your back to bake. Or give them nothing at all and blame me (I’m okay with that). Or give your friends gifts at Thanksgiving rather than Christmas (that’s what I do). Boycott sending out Christmas cards. Give gift cards as gifts rather than spend time in line at the stores.
For all you know, by following these seven tips to a healthy, stress-free Christmas, you might take pressure off of the people around you, too, and make them healthier and more joyous at Christmas time. Can you think of a better present than that? I can’t.
For more information about how stress affects the physical body—and how to overcome this stress with biblical truth, read Dr. Rita’s book, Radical Well-being: A Biblical Guide to Overcoming Pain, Illness, and Addictions (Siloam, March 2013). Also, follow Dr. Rita on Twitter (@RitaHancockMD) and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RadicalWellBeing. And for Dr. Rita’s biblical weight loss advice, visit www.TheEdenDiet.com.