The Advent season is full of excitement, remembering the birth of our Savior and well, stress! There are meals to plan, presents to buy, concerts and school functions to attend and then, Church stuff! Yikes, it is hard to stay grounded and stress free, let alone focus on the real meaning of Christmas.
There are some relatively easy ways to stay on top of the stress, if you don’t mind putting in a little initial work.
Start Advent with Confession. Throw out anything in your emotional and spiritual life that is holding you back from loving and feeling joy as fully as you should. Remember to prepare you heart for the arrival of baby Jesus!
Identify your style and work with it! Some people work well under pressure and others need time to accomplish things. Think about the times in the past you have enjoyed things like shopping or writing Christmas cards and try to duplicate the way you did things. I am a last minute girl with things like getting my articles done in time, but with things like Christmas gifts, well, I need a lot of time and preparation. Knowing this helps me plan accordingly and with a lot less stress. My hubby is a Christmas Eve shopper, but it works for him (of course he only buys for me and I take care of both our extended families and our 8 children).
Say NO! Everyone gives this advice and very few take it, but it can change everything. Start by really looking at your motives for saying yes and doing too much. Do your neighbors really care if you make ten different types of cookies, or is there a little bit of pride working in showing off how much you can do? They would be just as touched if you remembered them with one or two types of cookies.
Christmas cards are not always necessary, or you can find shortcuts. Almost everyone is online now, so consider an e-card for your address book! If you are old fashioned, like me, design or buy cards early and put your list on the computer so you can just print it out and stick them on the envelopes. I like to make a card that includes a collage of pics and an update on family members, saves me time writing in each card and signing each one, but I can still continue with the card tradition. I also like to get my cards ready in November when I am not rushed and just send them out in December, the same goes for packages.
Pick a theme and buy in bulk. Every year I decide what my theme will be, for example Legos for all my young grand niece and nephews, then I can shop in about fifteen minutes for all of them. Some years I have done books or ornaments for everyone.
My daughter’s Godmother started a great tradition that is fun and easy. She gives each godchild an ornament for Christmas and signs the back including the year. When the godchildren are older they have enough ornaments for their own trees. Ornaments can be purchased cheaply or even hand made.
Use Christmas to evangelize!! I love ordering bulk Catholic books (some of them are available from writers at this site) and giving them out to everyone. I over order, because I can usually get less expensive rates and I always have a gift for people who stop over unexpectedly or for co-workers etc.
Make the focus helping those less fortunate. Spend just one day doing something for someone who needs help. Take a neighbor (who doesn’t have transportation) Christmas shopping. My 16 year-old daughter wants to organize a gift drive for the women and children at a half-way house where she volunteers.
Don’t hang onto traditions that have lost their appeal. As my children grow and have other people in their lives, things get complicated. We sit down in November, look at schedules and see what works for everyone. We organize a Christmas celebration with extended family, and then figure out our family’s Christmas Eve and Christmas. My daughter may be married by next Christmas (haven’t set a wedding date yet), so we are considering doing Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. What truly matters is that we spend time together, we can eliminate a lot of stress by being flexible.
Pray, pray, pray!! Nothing decreases stress like turning that stress right over to The Lord. It is so easy to lose sight of what is truly important, prayer helps us stay centered and calm. It is in those moments that we can welcome Christ into our hearts and homes for Christmas.
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