Once upon a time, I, Ashley Black, was a pastor’s kid. Let me rephrase: once upon a time I was THEpastor’s kid. That’s right, my dear old dad was and still is the wisest and most profound speaker I haveever and probably will ever have the pleasure of hearing speak. He really is a spiritual powerhouse; but asa kid, all I cared about were the sermons where he read a top ten list. I remember my absolute favorite topten list: Children’s Book Titles You’ll Never See. My favorite from that list? Pop Goes the Hamster andOther Microwave Tales. I still think it’s hilarious! So in honor of Pastor Wayne’s famous top ten lists, I’veorganized this blog post into my very own: Christmas Stress Survival Top 10 List.1. Food Does Not Have Morality: A big part of Christmas is all of the delicious food that comeswith it. For many, food choices can be a major source of stress and anxiety. Some people refrainfrom everything for fear of falling off the proverbial wagon. Others throw up their hands and takedown every chocolate covered thing in sight. Well friends, I’m here to tell you, there is no wagon.There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food. Food, like every other inanimate object, doesnot have morality. There are foods that are more nourishing to your body and foods that are lessnourishing to your body but there is no food that is fundamentally good or bad, it’s just food.Since food cannot be good or bad, you cannot be a good or bad person based on the food choicesyou make. So make the choices you want to make this season, and if you do choose thatchocolate covered delight… ENJOY EVERY BITE.2. Set Clear Boundaries: Is your family situation less than ideal? Do you have that one familymember you just can’t seem to get along with? Setting clear boundaries is essential for holidaysurvival. Maybe your boundary is only committing to a half day with one side of the family,rather than a two day nonstop celebration. Perhaps you have a cousin who brings up that onesensitive subject every time he sees you and your boundary is to say “I would love to hear abouthow you’ve been doing, but I won’t talk about that, so if you continue I’m going to walk away.”Did you know that boundaries like that are not only acceptable but incredibly healthy? They are.Set boundaries with family members that struggle with respecting your limits; who knows, youmight just be setting a great example for other less assertive family members.3. Have a Person: Now that I’m married, my husband is the one I count on to get me throughstressful times. He knows me better than anyone and can see when I might be getting anxious ortriggered by something. However, I was a single adult for 10 times longer than I’ve been married,and long before my husband entered the picture, my person was my roommate from college,Steph. You don’t have to be married to have a person; a true friend will do just fine. No matterwho it is, it’s important for you to have a person. Someone who knows what the holidays will belike for you and can be there for you along the way. Whether you need to cry, rant, or makecutting sarcastic remarks to someone who won’t judge you for it, find your person, she or he willbe a life saver.
4. No is a Complete Sentence: Sometimes, you just need to say no without an explanation,however, very few of us feel confident enough to do so. Well friends, “no” is a completesentence. If you want to say no to a side of the family or to a specific family member and thatperson or persons demand an explanation as to why, you have no obligation to give one. If youare an adult with reasons why you would like to not participate in something, it is not yourresponsibility or duty to share those reasons. Don’t stress out about coming up with anexplanation that will satisfy others, just say no.5. Prepare: Knowing that you are heading into a stressful situation causes anxiety levels to rise longbefore you actually arrive. Begin preparations early! Spend some time before you leave doingsome calming exercises. Breathing exercises are a great way to calm your body and centralnervous system. Pray and meditate on Bible verses that assure you that no matter the situation,God will never leave you. Create a plan for if the worst happens. No matter your strategy,preparing your mind and body for a stressful situation is both important and necessary.6. Fight for the Traditions that are Important to You: Do you have a big family? Do you havebig personalities in your family or family-in-law? Do you often feel that your desires getrailroaded by others? You have a voice and your needs are important. Maybe you want to spendChristmas morning with just your spouse and kids but your extended family is pressuring you tospend it together. That family time is precious and important to you and it’s worth defending.Your extended family may not be thrilled with this boundary you’ve instated so be realistic inyour expectations of their response. Maybe you want to go on a Christmas Day run with your bestfriend but it will make you ten minutes late for family dinner. Let the host know that you will belate ahead of time, insist that no one wait for you, and go running – the response of others is notyour responsibility. Regardless of the specific activity, decide what traditions are most importantto you and then fight for them if you have to.7. Don’t let the Cost Ruin Christmas: Christmas can get expensive fast! Don’t let the stress overthe cost of Christmas ruin your time with loved ones. Big families can draw names so that youonly have to buy a gift for one person rather than many. Talk to your family about doing anactivity together rather than buying traditional presents. Write a heartfelt letter to everyone inyour family; that doesn’t cost a dime and will probably be everyone’s favorite gift. At the end ofthe day, Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and I truly believe most people don’t care about themoney put into a gift nearly as much as they care about the sentiment.8. Humor: As stressful as Christmas has the potential to be, don’t forget to laugh! Trying to find thehumor in any situation can significantly lower anxiety levels. Sometimes the only thing to do is toturn that super annoying thing into something that’s highly entertaining. Make jokes, makegames, and make faces, whatever it takes – just try to laugh!9. Consider Taking Supplements: If all else fails, consider taking some supplements to get youthrough the season! There is no shame in getting a little help from medication; however, themajority of people don’t need something that strong; for those people, I recommend supplements.GABA is an amino acid that calms the basal ganglia – the anxiety center of the brain. Taking afew hundred milligrams of GABA during highly stressful seasons of life can be extremelyhelpful. If you find that you are more likely to get depressed rather than anxious during theholidays, consider taking a high dosage Vitamin D supplement, St. John’s Wart, or SAMe. Ipersonally recommend Dr. Amen’s line of supplements which can be found at brainmdhealth.comas well as the Country Life brand which can be purchased through vitacost.com. You may alsofind some serious stress relief through certain essential oils. Check out my post “essential oils101” for more info.
10. Above All, Remember the Reason for the Season: Unfortunately, stress and anxiety is a big
problem for a lot of people during the Christmas season. But if Christ could speak directly to you,
I feel pretty confident that He would say something to the effect of “Hey, it’s all okay, slow down,
take a breath, and remember why this season is so sweet, remember what I did for you”. Don’t
lose the forest for the trees – don’t get so caught up in the details of Christmas that you lose sight
of why it is so incredibly important. A loving God sent His only Son to save the world. As stress
levels rise, take a deep breath and focus on THAT.
I hope this post was helpful for you, I know that I personally utilize several of these strategies to get
me through all kinds of stressful events. Anxiety, whether it is severe or not, is a pretty universal problem;
the key to handling anxiety successfully is to have a plan and to enact that plan before you get
overwhelmed. So before the madness hits, take action! This is a time to reflect, enjoy, and immerse
yourself in the faithfulness of the Father. I pray we all do more of that this year.
Post by Ashley Black