Christmas is stressful.
Yep, I said it. You were already thinking about it…
Christmas is not the easiest time of the year for many of us due to all sorts of issues. Family problems, money issues, and lack of time are just a few things that plague us.
What if I told you that you don’t have to continue in this vicious cycle of parties, spending, programs, and cookie-baking until 3 am? You can take control of your schedule and actually enjoy this holiday season in peace.
How is that possible, you ask?
Check out these solutions to your worst holiday problems and find ways to enjoy the season with peace and joy.
Why Is Christmas a Difficult Time?
For me, Christmas is difficult because I have all these great expectations for us to do as a family.
For some odd reason, I think, “This year my family is going to sip hot cocoa while decorating the tree, all the shopping will be done early, and “Uncle Bernie,” (insert name) is going to be pleasant and charming, unlike last year.”
To make matters worse, I have images of myself floating through the holiday singing “Silent Night” and happily wrapping presents. Okay, maybe not, but you get the point.
Meanwhile, in real life… the decorations and the tree barely get up (it was by blackmail and threats), no shopping has been done (broke), everyone has the flu, and “Uncle Bernie” is still a turd.
All hope gets dashed when this happens, and things go downhill (crash and burn) from there.
Nothing seems worth the effort when Christmas is stressful.
If you are like me, you probably don’t feel the spirit moving you to pull out all of those dusty, allergy-infested bins in the attic, spend thankless hours by yourself creating a magical wonderland (Bah-humbug), and then take the decorations back down three weeks later while everyone else just admires your work.
You know who you are.
If you are feeling like Christmas is stressful, then it is time to set some healthy boundaries so you can also enjoy the holiday season with the rest of the family.
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Christmas is Stressful: What Am I Doing Wrong?
Let me give you some reasons why Christmas is stressful and solutions to help you turn things around. I guarantee Christmas will be much better if you do these things:
1. Unrealistic Expectations
The holidays are the worst for setting unrealistic expectations. I not only had expectations of myself but also unrealistic expectations for others too.
I was going to go to Christmas concerts, attend plays, decorate the inside and outside of the house, make cookies, create homemade gifts, watch the Hallmark channel, attend church, etc…
And my husband and kids were going to help me with my longggg list. Haha. That didn’t work out so well.
What made it worse was when the people I love didn’t help me, I spent the rest of the season angry. I thought they didn’t appreciate me. Can anyone say, “Self-pity?”
No wonder I just quit some years. I couldn’t do it all, so I gave up. Sadly, I made everyone else suffer for it too.
Pick one event
Pick one event everyone can attend such as a Christmas Eve candlelight service or even church on Sunday. Find ways to make the time together special so everyone is engaged. Anything else during the season is gravy. If you can attend a concert, great. If not, no big deal.
This doesn’t include the kid’s programs. Obviously, every parent is going to attend this special occasion. And that is fun!
Pick one craft
I decided to make gingerbread cookies with the kids every year because it was important to them. They liked it so much that I also bought a gingerbread house. THEY totally did the decorating.
The gingerbread houses are around $10-$15 at Walmart.
Several years in a row my daughter’s friends have helped decorate. It was something Christmasy (is this a word?) to do with her friends, and it kept them busy. I was fine not helping.
Pick one day to decorate
I decided to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving Day. It’s my house, and that is what is easiest for me. I just leave the dining room decor set for Thanksgiving dinner, and the rest of the house is a Christmas wonderland.
After Thanksgiving, I remove the fall decor in the dining room and replace it with the rest of the Christmas items. Bam! It’s all done.
For those of you who think this is heresy, no problem. Kill yourself after Thanksgiving while I am by the fireplace watching a movie and drinking that hot cocoa.
I put the wreaths outside the first week in December, and no one is the wiser except my family. (And now everyone reading this.) My family loves the extra holiday cheer in the house even though it is early in the season. I don’t think Christmas is stressful when I spread out the work over a larger span of time.
2. Focus On Things
When the kids are little, it is easy to get caught up in Santa, gifts, candy, and all the other trappings of the holiday. I think we have forgotten the real reason for the season.
It’s Jesus’ birth.
Materialism has seeped so deep into our culture that it has replaced any need for a Savior. Even as a devout Christian, I have let stuff get in the way of focusing on what I wanted instead of what we all needed-God.
Christmas is fun with little kids. Your budget can go a long way when buying toys and trinkets, but honestly, do they need to open 15 presents? They can’t process that much stuff mentally.
Dave Ramsey has an excellent article on this subject, and great suggestions to manage your gift-giving. As my kids have grown older, we have moved to a more minimalistic holiday. We do stocking stuffers, cash, and a couple of gifts from Santa.
I no longer believe Christmas is stressful because I let my kids do the work. They mostly shop after Christmas. Things are on sale, and they can get what they want at bargain prices. In turn, this means their dollar goes further.
I recently heard this suggestion for giving gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Four gifts. I might try that this year.
The best way to get the kid’s focus off themselves is to do a mission project with them.
Adopt an angel through the Salvation Army, feed the homeless through an organization such as Union Gospel Mission, or mail a shoebox gift to kids overseas through Operation Christmas Child.
We have done all of these in the past. As a family, we have found feeding those without a home the most meaningful as it sets the right tone for the season.
3. Lose Hope
I think losing hope is one of the reasons Christmas is stressful. We expect people to be something they are never going to be. I can’t tell you how many times I have been let down because I hoped “things would be different this year.”
It is easy to set ourselves up to hope “Uncle Bernie” is going to be different only to find he’s still…”Uncle Bernie.” He’s probably going to get drunk, cuss a few times, and say something rude to you or, better yet, make a freaking scene at the dinner table.
You can’t expect people to miraculously change, but you can pray that the time you spend with “Bernie” will be meaningful and quiet. Some people tend to act worse during the holidays because they are hurting and don’t know how to express their feelings appropriately.
When you eat together with your extended family, keep reminding yourself that it’s just one meal. (If you’re stuck with “Bernie” for days, you might cut that trip short).
Bite your tongue and be pleasant. Try focusing on serving others; kindness goes a long way. (Serving keeps you busy and away from “Uncle Bernie”). Set boundaries and stick to them.
Refocus on Jesus
Instead of putting your hope in people, it is better to put your hope in a Person. Jesus.
Take time as a family to read the Christmas Story (Luke 2). Watch a movie that focuses on the meaning of Christmas. Go to church.
Focus on the reason for the holiday. It will give you a new sense of purpose and meaning as to why you are celebrating in the first place. Check out this video. It is the reading of Luke 2 with visual enhancement.
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How Can I Stop Stressing Over Christmas?
If you want to stop stressing over Christmas, then stop having unrealistic expectations of yourself and those around you. Quit forcing everyone to meet your needs, and stop thinking only about yourself and your schedule.
Furthermore, stop buying your kids everything they could ever want and make it all about the stuff. There is no reason to go into debt because of Christmas gifts. This is why Christmas is stressful!
You don’t have to overcommit, lose sleep, go broke, or run yourself ragged this year. It’s time to set boundaries for yourself and those around you.
Conversely, it is time to create family traditions and purposely spend time with the ones you love. Find Christ-centered activities that point to Jesus instead of meaningless time wasters that focus on self-indulgence.
Focus on God and worship the One who was born this holiday season and made your life possible. If you do these things there is a good chance you will remember this holiday as one of the best times together with your family.
And you, my friend, will not be exhausted and broke in January.
Christmas is stressful for many people. What stresses you out about the holidays? Comment below.
Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
Are you experiencing family problems or have a family estrangement? Do you feel shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.
This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family but also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.
Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.
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