Christmas. . . it’s the most wonderful time of the year (really, it is!), but it’s also the most chaotic. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet by the craziness of the season? I’ve found that it’s around this time—the last week before Christmas—that holiday fatigue begins to set in. The newness of the season has slowly worn off. . . we’re starting to get our fill of holiday parties and Christmas carols, and the process of Christmas shopping (and gift wrapping) that was exciting just a few weeks ago now feels like a tiresome, never-ending chore. We’re still looking forward to Christmas, but we’re also just a little bit ready to be done with it all and move back to a place of normalcy.
I find it ironic that Christmas is meant to be a season of joy and peace, yet for many (most?) of us, December tends to be the most stressful month of the year. Few of us have mastered the art of balance and restfulness, and these skills are often abandoned altogether at Christmastime. My church’s weekly devotional last week said it well: “Peace can be elusive. It’s not something that comes naturally to us humans; we tend to err on the side of chaos and division.”
As someone who practically lives in “stress mode,” I can’t remember a year when I didn’t find myself fighting a losing battle with Christmas chaos. This year has been particularly overwhelming for me. On top of the typical holiday pressure to “do all the things!” I’ve been knee-deep with baby preparation (classes, reading, prenatal exercises, nursery assembly. . .). I’ve also been preoccupied with tying things up at my teaching job before I leave for my new full-time position as a stay-at-home mommy. At times this month I’ve found myself exhausted to the point of tears, on the verge of a complete mental and emotional break. But finding myself at the end of my rope proved to be a blessing in that it forced me to reevaluate the ways I am spending my time, and prioritize moments of rest. I don’t have this mastered by any means, but here are a few ways I’ve been making room for restfulness this Christmas season:
1. Reading (Fiction): Reading has always been a de-stressor for me, but lately most of my reading has been geared towards pregnancy, labor, and baby care—not exactly relaxing subjects. I’ve been trying to carve out a little time each day to read some fiction. Last week, I spent a glorious hour in a coffee shop with a Christmas book, a cup of hot tea, and a beautiful view of the rainstorm taking place outside. I had a lengthy list of errands I needed to run, but that moment of relaxation was the most productive use of my time that afternoon.
2. Walking: Luke and I try to go for a walk most nights when he gets home from work. The combination of cool air, exercise, and good conversation does amazing things for my psyche and my soul. Walks are particularly delightful this time of year since we get to enjoy the beautifully decorated houses along our route.
3. Music: I’m normally a podcast and audiobook junkie, but lately it’s the Christmas albums on my phone that have been getting the most playtime. With life feeling so crazy, it’s been helpful to replace the “word clutter” with calming tunes.
4. Schedules & Lists: List-making is nothing new for me, and I’ve discovered that the quickest way to help me feel less stressed is to check something off my to-do list. In recent months I’ve taken to adding the most basic items to my lists so that I can experience the sense of accomplishment and burst of energy that comes with checking off the next item. I’ve also found scheduling my days—sometimes, down to the hour—to be extremely beneficial.
5. Bedtime Rituals: Christmas lights might be my favorite part of the Holidays! This year, Luke hung a strand of icicle lights in our bedroom for us to enjoy as we fall asleep at night. The catch is that the timer turns off at 11:00, which has been a powerful motivator for us to get to bed on time. Crawling into bed at 10:30 and getting to cuddle with my hubby under the glow of Christmas lights feels downright indulgent, and it instantly brings down my stress level!
6. Journaling: As a writer, I tend to process through journaling. This year I’ve gotten into the habit of journaling every night before I go to bed. This helps me to clear my mind and prepare for a restful night.
7. Prayer & Meditation: When life gets busy, my prayer life tends to suffer—which is the exact opposite of what should be happening! Lately, I’ve been devoting time each day to pray and meditate. I’ve also found myself offering up breath-prayers throughout the day: inviting God to be an active participant in each part of my day inevitably leads to a deeper sense of peace and purpose as I go about my scheduled activities.
8. Savoring Christmas Moments: This will be Luke’s and my last Christmas without kids, and I want it to be a special one. I’m trying to acknowledge and savor the small moments as they arise: the quiet evening on the couch watching a Christmas movie; singing Christmas carols at church with his arm around me and his hands on my belly; decorating our tree without trying to keep a small child from smashing all the ornaments. . . these are all moments we won’t have again, at least not for many years, and I want to cherish them.
Christmas truly can be a wonderful time of year, as long as we don’t get so caught up in the craziness of the season that we forget to enjoy it. This Christmas, take a deep breath. Let go of the non-necessities that are dominating your holiday season. And embrace the gift of rest being offered to you by our Heavenly Father, the Prince of Peace.