Finding Focus with Christmas Stress
Have Yourself a Stressful Little Christmas!
Amazingly there has never been a song at Christmas time about this. I love this time of year and all that it means to us as believers. Christmas and Easter are two holidays that really have a strong Christian message (once you get past the commercialism) and allows us to feel freer to share and celebrate our faith. However, I often feel the stress of all the busyness of the Christmas season.
When you get into education, the Christmas holidays also means the ending of one semester and the beginning of another. For secondary students it means finals. For elementary students, it means going further into the curriculum. For all students, there is a certain amount of stress that is to be expected. Homework, tests, projects and other miscellaneous activities create a level of stress. For most of us, school stress plus holiday stress is tough.
Have I stressed you out?
Despite all that we know about the negative aspects of chronic stress, a certain amount is good for us. Yes, good for us. According to various studies, manageable stress, which for our kids would be the weekly spelling test, regular homework, etc. actually increases our alertness and performance. Dealing with manageable stress every day also builds up our cognitive and memory performance. It helps develop our ability to handle the larger stresses that come along in life. We learn from handling our stressful situations and are able to better problem-solve for the future.
If you are like my wife and I, we always tried to help our kids by eliminating the situations that caused them stress. Most of the time, it was because we didn’t want to listen to their complaints, the crying, and so on. We loved them and didn’t want them to be upset. However, always coming to their rescue, as I learned then and now, wasn’t the best solution. Letting them experience the stress and handling it with our support and the teacher’s support, helps them deal with life’s struggles as they continue to grow. That may mean they get a failing grade, they lose a privilege or not make a team, even though that may “stress them out” it will also help them handle life better later. Being able to handle stress better makes us better people.
So, what can we do?
- Use the stresses to help remind and teach us to pray. Read Matthew 6:25-34 as God makes it clear that he will take care of us. I always say to myself “This to shall pass.”
- Have them take a few deep breaths and relax. Kind of as Taylor Swift says, “Shake it off!” This allows us to lower our anxiety and allows us to calm down. Follow with thinking about positive things.
- Where you can, eliminate the busyness. It amazes me how many activities kids are in and the fact that we have to rush from school to this activity or that activity not only stresses them, stresses the parents as well. Cut out some of the things that seem to add to the hectic life and don’t provide for a calmer lifestyle.
- Have regular, sit down at a table meal. Talk about positive things that have happened.
- Consistent bedtime. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9-12 hours of sleep a night.
- Plan the schedule with your kids in mind. Often we think in adult terms with what we are doing and don’t always think about how our decisions and schedules impact our kids.
It is easy to sit here and pontificate. I am as guilty as the next person in creating stress in my life and in turn passing on the stress to others. Christmas is a wonderful time and to be a child at Christmas is truly magical. Focus on the positive, faith-building message of God’s great love for us at Christmas. He will help us to rest in Him.