The holidays... joy, love, peace~ not always. It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of the Christmas preparations and lose our way in a sea of stress. So much to do. So little time, especially this year when the four Sundays of Advent happen in three weeks! Add to that family stressors, difficult discussions at gatherings and it can be overwhelming.
So what are we to do?
First, breathe. This will pass. Think ahead to the middle of January when things will be quiet again and even a little boring.
Second, be grateful. Try to reframe your thinking. Instead of dreading that difficult family gathering, remember that this could be the "last" time for some of you there. How would you feel if you maintained a bad attitude and that was your last memory of all your family together?
Third, set boundaries. It is okay to change things and not do things that no longer make sense for you or your family (economically or emotionally). Consider a no gift rule, limit the time of a gathering, skip Christmas cards... do whatever you can to let go of things that make the holiday season stressful. This year, we asked our kids to choose the things they enjoyed the most about Christmas and we tried to find a way to do those things. Planning is key in avoiding stress. I send out a master schedule to all our children and they attend the things they are able to attend. It is as simple as that. If they don't show to something, although I might be a little disappointed, but I make a conscious decision ahead of time not to get upset.
Fourth, consider theme or group gifts. Gift giving has (in my opinion) gotten out of control. This year we decided no gifts for extended family except homemade ones (and that is only if you want to). Consider buying theme gifts, t-shirts for everyone, low budget DVDs given with hot cocoa and popcorn etc. It makes shopping less expensive and much less stressful.
Last, but most importantly, remember what the season is about! Advent is a penitential season of the Church. We try to pray more, get to confession at least once and immerse ourselves in the experience of anticipation of Christ's coming. It is a good reminder to be "waiting" for the second coming of Christ eagerly. We are Advent people!
Other articles on Christmas and Christmas Stress!