Category Archives: Handling Stress

How to Thrive Spiritually During the Holidays

Sometimes, I ruin the holidays for myself. I find myself becoming a bit of a Scrooge during this time of year as I focus too much on the rampant commercialism I see represented in our culture. The focus on presents, the lack of routine, and the “me, me, me” attitude make me crazy. And often, when I am being grumpy and doing my best Grinch impression, I find that I get in my own way and destroy the holidays for myself—and sometimes others. Then I realize, it’s not really them—those exhibiting the commercialism, it’s me: it turns out my focus is off.

nativity scene

image courtesy of dan / freeditigalphotos.net

I believe that the reason we celebrate this holiday season—even Thanksgiving—is to honor the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. God looked down at us, saw our struggles, and realized that we needed something more than just rules we couldn’t keep and messes we couldn’t straighten. So He sent His only Son as a baby, to grow and become a Savior to us. It is the real meaning of Christmas, and it is the focus I should keep.

Do you struggle with focusing on the true meaning of the season? Here are a few ways you can thrive spiritually during the holidays:

Behold His Glory. In order to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we have to focus on the birth of Jesus! One of the best ways to do this is to plan time in your day to spend time with God and your family being thankful for the true reason for the season. Taking time every day will keep your eyes on the true prize—the coming of a Savior—instead of earthly prizes like gifts. Even though I read devotions every day, I also read a special advent devotional and attend special Christmas worship services. Every day is a new opportunity for us to behold the glory of God—especially during the holidays!

Have Traditions. Keep old traditions that your family already has or start new ones. My family loves spending time driving through the neighborhoods to see tacky Christmas decorations. We always have a blast doing it and the time together laughing makes memories. Maybe your family goes to a Christmas Eve candlelight service. Maybe your family decorates the tree together. Whatever traditions you have and begin, make it a memory that refreshes you and brings joy to those you are with.

Serve Others. To keep the focus solely off of your own wants and desires, plan time—by yourself or with your family—to serve others. A great friend of mine serves the homeless on Christmas morning. At a time when  other families are opening presents, she and her family are in a kitchen serving breakfast to about 100 homeless men in our county. Moving the focus from “me” to “thee” will keep Christ as the center of the holidays. After all, Christ is the ultimate symbol of giving to others—so use your God-given gifts and serve others during the Christmas season (1 Peter 4:10).

Remember, Christmas is about His presence, not our presents! “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!” May this holiday season bring you and your family joy as you thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually!

How to Thrive Physically During the Holidays

I felt sick. I didn’t have a cold, but I didn’t feel right, either. My head was stuffy. I wasn’t sleeping well. It was terrible timing, too, because I was on vacation with my family over Thanksgiving, and I was looking forward to spending that time, well, NOT being sick. I tried everything: washing all my clothes, having them change my bedding to hypoallergenic sheets. Nothing I tried worked—until I finally returned home to my routine and stopped eating food I shouldn’t have eaten. My food intolerance was the issue, and my body was not happy with me.

christmas workout by ambro

image courtesy of ambro / freedigitalphotos.net

Learning how to thrive emotionally during the holidays is a great first step, but it’s not helpful if you don’t care for yourself physically as well. Our body, mind, and spirit are intricately created to work together, so that even if one part is working well, we can feel the repercussions if the others are not. I certainly felt those repercussions for two weeks last year in the Caribbean, instead of feeling normal and healthy. A few dumb decisions about my physical health caused more pain than gain.

So how can you thrive physically during the holidays, especially when there is so much temptation? Here are four ways:

  • Eat what you normally eat. I am referring to the amount as well as the actual food itself! Too many times during the holidays we overeat, leaving us feeling sluggish and lethargic. In addition, we tend to eat those things we “normally” don’t eat during the holidays (I’m talking to you, sweets!). Too much of anything our bodies are not used to can us completely out of whack and leave us feeling icky and even sick. So stick to your normal foods and stick to your normal intake amounts!
  • Exercise. Even if this means abandoning your normal exercise routine and simply going for a walk once or twice a day, get out and get moving. You can fight lethargy, ease conflict, and sleep better just by moving your body for 15 minutes a day. In addition, your body will thank you for keeping up with your normal routine—OR adding new physical activity to your regimen!
  • Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, as is resting/napping when you need it. This doesn’t mean napping to escape confrontation or dealing with family; this means napping to recharge your mind and body. Dealing with relatives and the holiday stress can be exhausting; you will be surprised how much easier it is to respond (instead of react!) when you are well rested! In addition, your body loves sleep and often you will find that after a good night’s sleep, you feel thinner!
  • Treat yourself a little. Sample each dessert, but don’t take a whole piece. Nibble off of a family member’s plate instead of getting your own plate of desserts. Allow yourself one dessert per day until January 1. Set boundaries and keep them. Indulging that sweet tooth just a bit will help calm your cravings but won’t ruin you completely.

Remember, your body is God’s temple, the house of the Holy Spirit, and He deserves a healthy, satisfied, well-rested place to dwell. When the new year comes, let your resolutions show that you cared for yourself physically this holiday season!

What are some other ways you have learned to thrive physically during the holidays?

How to Thrive Emotionally During the Holidays

The holidays are here! Yes, it is the time of the year when we spend increased time with our families—during which we can become stressed out at the mere thought. In fact, many people go into the holiday season wondering how they are going to survive. I was one of those people. Spending time with my family has been great at times and miserable at others. There was a time when I dreaded the holidays and going back to my hometown. However, as I grew in emotional intelligence, I changed my thoughts and began to manage my emotions, which helped me to set clear boundaries and respond instead of react. Nowadays, I tend to thrive during the holidays! So how can you move from surviving to thriving emotionally this holiday season? 

Christmas Sisters by imagerymajestic

image courtesy of imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net

  • Increase the focus on yourself. People will tell you that it is selfish to think about yourself too much, which is true. But it is also unhealthy to not think about yourself enough—because other than God, no one knows your needs better than you. So, if you need time to yourself away from your family, your in-laws, your “different” cousins, or the general craziness, then take it. Let people know in advance that you may need some “alone time” (I call it “Michelle time) and then when you need it, take a walk, take a drive, or find a quiet place to unwind. Also—take a nap (or naps)! Sleep is instrumental in helping you cope better, feel better, and interact better with others. So get a good night’s sleep and take some naps. Remember, no one else will make that time for you, so just do it.
  • Release the burden of others’ emotions. When I need “Michelle time,” sometimes people are supportive and sometimes they are not. I used to get upset because others felt mad/hurt/upset at my need for space. Now, I release that—it is their issue, not mine. Once on vacation when Michelle time was over, I noticed one of my family members acting as if I had purposefully hurt them by taking time for myself. I, however, did not react to that (or respond to it). I ignored it. Now, had I done something wrong, I would have addressed it and apologized. But restoring my soul with much-needed alone time does not qualify as wrongdoing, so I released the issue and acted normally—and eventually, that family member did too.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray. Few things have gotten me through the insanity of family gatherings like prayer. I have noticed that when I pray for my family members, I am the one who changes. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” If you are anxious about this holiday season, cast your emotions onto God in prayer! He hears you, and He will answer because He loves you. How do I know? Because my responses are more grace-filled, I am more receptive to others, and my emotions are more balanced—because of God’s grace and mercy in answer to my prayers.

Remember: it starts in your mind with your emotions! Take some steps this season to move from surviving to thriving emotionally—and learn to enjoy the holidays with your family!

What are some ways you have learned to thrive emotionally during the holidays?