Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I'm Dreaming of a Stress Free Christmas

Instead of a white Christmas, are you dreaming of a stress free Christmas?  Christmas always seems to bring out the worse for people instead of the happiness and joy that it is intended to bring. Last week, I had to watch a friend of mine have a crying meltdown over this very thing.  There was nothing I could do but hug her and tell her what I am about to tell you.

By the grace of God and many years of studying the Bible and through lots of trial and error, I have finally succeeded in living a 95% stress free life including at Christmas.  I can't share everything I've learned in this one blog post, but I can share a few that were very freeing for me and I hope will be for you too.  Know this - it doesn't matter what your personality is, if you were "born" a certain way, or if this is the way it has always been, you can change.  Don't worry about changing others - that will never happen, but you can change how you do and how you react and in doing so you will end up having a stress free Christmas and a stress free life.  This leads to my first tip:

  1. Quit worrying what everyone else thinks - Your number one goal needs to always be to do what is best for you.  This is not selfish - this is all about knowing what works for you because we are all unique.  What works for someone else may not work for you and that is ok.  My grandma used to always say "There is more than one way to skin a cat."  You can get to the same place many different ways and you need to pick the best way for you.  An example during this time of year is presents.  Christmas should not be about what you give or what you receive.  Christmas is a time for families to come together in whatever form that brings and celebrate each other.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't buy for others, but it means that you need to do what works for you.  If all you can do is a card this year, that's ok.  If you can do nothing, that is ok.  And if you want to buy a special gift for someone and you can afford it, by all means do so.  A lot of the Christmas stress comes simply from the gift buying process.  And by the way, just because someone buys for you doesn't mean you need to match or one up them.  Maybe all you can do is a thank you card and that is enough.  Here is what I have learned - people are going to think what they are going to think no matter what.  In many cases, no matter what you do, something negative will be thought or said.  This is not your problem - it is theirs.  Always be respectful, but always do what works for you and no one else - no exceptions, no excuses.
  2. Pace yourself - After reading the first tip, you may have already decided to eliminate several items from your to do list that you were simply doing because it was expected of you.  So let's talk about what is left.  With anything that you do, you need to try to pace yourself.  What I mean is look at the big thing and break it into small things.  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Let me share my example from this past weekend in order to give you some ideas. This past Saturday, we had a party for a few friends at our house.  I made it an all h'ordeurves party because this was easier to shop for, easier to fix and better for socializing which was the point of the party.  I wrote out my menu with nice, simple easy items such as shrimp cocktail, caprese on a stick, pasta salad, filet bites, and dip.  One day during the week I went to Aldi and bought everything.  Yes, everything at a discount grocery store.  On Saturday, I paced myself between freshening up the downstairs where everyone would be, putting together the food items and at times, I was able to sit down in between and enjoy myself.  I enlisted the help of my wonderful husband when needed and together we had everything ready by 4 o'clock when everyone arrived.  I had out a cheese and cracker assortment to start with and this allowed me to enjoy everyone instead of slaving in the kitchen.  It took me about 10 minutes to assemble the table when it was time to eat and everyone gathered in the living room and had a blast together enjoying each other.  I say all of this to prove that you can have a nice get together without killing yourself and stressing over the cost or the preparing.  When it was over, I scraped the plates, put them in a neat pile and went back to play with my little buddy who was at the party.  Nothing says Christmas like hanging with a two year old.  After they left, I put away what needed to be done and by noon the next day, all of the dishes were done and put away.  By the way, this is not the way a party would have looked in my house several years ago.  But I have learned to let certain things go, focus on what is important, and pace myself with the rest.
  3. It is what it is - Life is going to happen - or to be more blunt, crap is going to happen.  You can't help it.  All you can control is how you react to what happens.  What if I had put myself on a strict time line for our party?  The second something wouldn't have gone accordingly, I would have stressed.  But why?  It is what it is.  I can't change it.  You cannot put the milk back in the cow.  All you can do is decide what to do with the milk.  This is actually my life mantra and I quote it until people get sick of hearing it.  But if more of us would use it, life would be much less stressful.  Everyday in my life, something goes wrong and by wrong I mean not the way I expected.  First, I pray. Then I look at my options - what I can control and make a decision if need be.  80% of the time my decision is simply to let it go.  Don't hold on to something that is not going as expected or going your way.  You may have a script but no one else has a copy of it including God.  He has his own script and His way is always better.  The next time something happens like this, say out loud "It is what it is.  God it is in your hands."  And let it go!
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Philippians 4:6

When you are stressed or anxious, simply do as God instructs.  First, don't be stressed or anxious - let it go!  Then pray!  But not only pray, pray and ask with thanksgiving.  We forget this part.  Be thankful always.  There is a treasure in every trial.  Even in the worst trials.  Cancer is a horrible thing.  No one ever wants to hear that word spoken in conjunction with anyone.  But even in this trial there are treasures.  Sometimes it is that they found it early, sometimes it is that they found it at all giving you extra time with your loved ones. 

We are all going to feel times of stress.  But when you feel stressed, turn to the verse above and then use some of these tips to get you through the moment.  God never leaves us and what He thinks is all that matters.  Remember that this holiday season and most of all remember the true meaning of Christmas.  It is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus who's sole purpose of being born was to save each and every one of us so that we wouldn't have to be stressed. 

I love each and every one of you and pray that you have a stress free holiday season and a stress free 2017!  From my family to yours - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!