(Note: The following article is based on my recent appearance on Relevant Radio.)
How are we supposed to enjoy Advent, when we’re more rushed and more stressed than ever before in the history of humanity?
Or are we?
Author and popular podcaster Gretchen Rubin shared an excerpt from Little House in the Ozarks, a collection of articles Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote for regional newspapers and magazines in the 1920s while living on a farm in rural Missouri:
“We are so overwhelmed with things these days that our lives are all, more or less, cluttered. I believe it is this, rather than a shortness of time, that gives us that feeling of hurry and almost of helplessness. Everyone is hurrying and usually just a little late. Notice the faces of the people who rush past on the streets or on our country roads! They nearly all have a strained, harassed look, and anyone you meet will tell you there is no time for anything anymore.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder
It sure does seem like managing stress has always been needed! So, let’s consult a couple of experts. I’ll be drawing from Time Management: A Catholic Perspective, by Marshall J. Cook and from a wonderful webinar by Allison Ricciardi, owner of TheRaphaelRemedy.com (tips on stress, using natural remedies—especially essential oils) and Chantal Howard, the owner and creator of AromaRosaries.
Tip #1: Time management isn’t always about a lack of time.
Sometimes we are averse to tasks and they create stress for us because they’re not getting done.
- Think about them differently (positive reframing)
- Instead of “all that decorating” that has to be done, let’s set out to reveal beauty to our families. We’re all a little broken-hearted over someone we love who has left the Church; let’s let God speak through beauty and touch their hearts in unexpected ways.
- Instead of procrastinating and griping about all the housework on that to-do list, let’s thank God for a house to clean, clothes to wash, and loved ones to serve!
- Break the avoidance/overwhelm cycle and schedule the tasks we usually avoid–and stick to the schedule!
- Science tells us that small rewards to celebrate progress actually impact our brains, boosting creativity and refreshing our minds! So go ahead and buy flowers for yourself, read a few chapters of a good book, or meet a friend for coffee. It’s good for your brain!
Tip #2: When you make time for a task, you don’t actually create more time. You take it from something else.
MAKE TIME: Simplifying as much as you possibly can, to allow for the added activities and tasks of Advent
- No, you DON’T have to buy them all gifts. (Hear my story in this radio interview!)
- Ask each person in your family what one thing really makes it feel like Christmas for them, and make sure to do those things.
- Paring down the card list is just smart. Don’t be a slave to that list you’ve been accumulating for years. Cut it down and save both money and time.
- Speaking of money, setting a budget and working within it can really brighten your spirits. It’s empowering to take control. Build in a little margin for that special “find” or the person you forgot to put on your list, but stay as close to your budget as possible.
- SWAP some habitual activities (social media, phone, web surfing) for activities that hold greater value (prayer, time with family, trips outdoors, celebrations, crafting, decorating)
- Delegate tasks as much as possible (sometimes hire help, if needed). Your family can work as a team, your little ones can learn, and you can be building something a little less perfect than if you did it yourself–but a lot more fun: a happy Christmas that everyone contributed to!
- Multitask in fun ways. Rather than stressing out and staying up late, plan a time to listen to music or watch a Christmas movie while you bake, write a few cards, or decorate the tree.
Tip #3: Waiting can be a good thing:
- If you’re stressing out in traffic jams, post-office lines, doctor’s offices–TURN THE WAIT INTO A REST.
- Stress can restrict our breathing, so–while you wait–let some of that good air God created flow in–and out, and then…
- Let your mind delve into a beautiful memory (the face of someone you love, a time you felt really happy and peaceful, a scent that lifts your spirits).
- Face up to what is stressing you out! Picture it vividly–is it a clock spinning its arms wildly, screaming that you’re late?–then imagine it being captured in a translucent bubble and release it–letting it float away.
Tip #4: Self-Care, so Everyone is Feeling Good on Christmas Day
- Stay hydrated for healthy body systems
- Eating early and fasting late: a great rule for weight and energy control
- Vitamin D: even in small daily doses, D is great for mood regulation and weight loss
- Get outside! Spending time outdoors provides short-term benefits by relieving mental fatigue and long-term benefits by improving your overall health
- Grazing with small snacks throughout the day is healthier than 3 squares plus snacks
- Rest when you’re weary (NAPS are a great idea at any age and can do you a world of good)
- Limit TV and go to bed on time–just do it!
- Schedule the hard stuff. Plan to do the most challenging tasks during your peak energy/focus hours. This is very individual, so take a good look at your planner and rearrange it to fit your natural rhythms, as much as possible.
- Oils work wonders!
- lemon or other citrus oils support metabolism and help detox the body
- lavender is calming, healing, and helps reduce inflammation and infection
- frankincense, which is used in churches, enhances meditation, relaxation, builds immunity, refreshes the skin
- diffuse oils to clear out pathogens in the home
- cinnamon leaf
- lemon, grapefruit, wild orange
- tea tree (melaleuca)
- (For tons more information on boosting health and wellbeing with essential oils, from a Catholic perspective, see TheRaphaelRemedy.com)
Tip #5: For More of That Wonderful Christmas Spirit
- What is your best quiet time? Schedule morning or evening prayer, daily throughout Advent (and hopefully beyond)
- JUST 5-10 minutes of reading, daily (choose a cool Catholic book). Here are some hearty recommendations:
- O Radiant Dawn: 5-minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath, by Lisa Hendey
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises, by Dr. Scott Hahn, helped a friend see Christmas through a whole new lens!
- Meditate on the Nativity narrative in Luke 2
- Jesse Tree Readings and activities for children (Catholic Icing)
- In the CAR, your spirit will go far: Prayer CDs, beautiful music, the Rosary–use your travel time for reveling in the beauty and wonder of the season.
Bonus Tip: Here’s a Super-Cool Catholic Gift Idea–Rosaries that diffuse essential oils!!!
These AromaRosary gifts are beneficial to your health and your spiritual life, and the owners are faithful Catholics who support beautiful ministries with their business!
- Crafted to Diffuse Essential Oils
- Solid Bronze Metal Crucifix and Center
- 4 Sample Oils with Every Rosary
- Every Rosary Blesses a Ministry
Have a blessed and beautiful Advent!
[Stock images from Pixabay.com]