Chaplain Pierce McIntyre offers helpful insights and prayers for dealing with every day life in his regular e-mails to friends and colleagues. In a recent e-mail, he pointed out that there is an inherent contradiction in the term “holiday stress.” A holiday is “a celebratory day, break, day of rest or vacation.” Stress means “anxiety, impatience, and nervous tension.” The two really don’t seem to go together, but we know that they exist in combination too often these days.
We are now immersed in the “holiday season’ that is inaugurated with Thanksgiving, reaches its peak with Christmas, and then closes out with New Year’s Day. This is a time of feasting, visiting, giving, reflection, and worship for most of us. As McIntyre notes, however, it is often a time of stress as well.
So how do we deal with the stress? What are some things we can do to deal with the stress?
First, we can set priorities. What do we really value not only during the holidays but everyday? If we value family, we will make sure that the holidays are times of sharing and creating positive memories together. If we value giving time to others, we will structure such time into our lives. Holidays are different from the normal flow of life but they can still reflect the values we embrace and put first.
Second, we can take the time to give back. During the holidays, we become even more aware of the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many struggle in a number of ways—to have food on the table, to have safe and comfortable housing, and to provide for their families. Those of us who have so much become more aware of those who have little. Providing meals, support, and assistance for those in need may give us a head start on a new way of behaving in the New Year.
Third, we can take the time to nurture and enjoy relationships with family and friends. Take the time at parties, dinners, and other gatherings to really connect with others and show appreciation for them. Even if we are geographically separated from those we love, we can call, write (remember old-fashioned cards and letters?) and find other ways to communicate.
Finally, we can commit time to prayer and reflection. This is a holy season. We give thanks for the fulfillment of God’s promise in the Son, Jesus Christ, and consider what it means for our lives. Although the change in calendar from one year to another is totally arbitrary, the move from 2014 to 2015 provides opportunities for us to assess where we have been and where we might go in the future with God’s help.
Holiday stress is a reality, but we can commit ourselves to emphasize the first part rather than the latter part.
(A version of this blog appeared on this blog on December 2, 2013)