“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I especially like it played on a tenor or alto saxophone. The version by Jason Kendall is fantastic. This time of year is so stressful for so many people. Can you really have a stress free Christmas? Is having a Merry Little Christmas even possible? I believe the answer to that is, “Yes!”
Sources of Holiday Stress
There’s too much to do. We can’t be everywhere at once. We can’t live up to all of the expectations. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough time. Some family members are annoying (yes, you can say it). We miss loved ones that are gone and the holidays remind us of their absence. There are lots of sources of stress.
One that I would like to highlight is my own expectations. Stress is the result of too much pressure being placed on something. In engineering terms, stress occurs when the amount of force on a material is so great the material deforms – becomes something other than what it was intended. And there you have the real source…
When we allow pressure to hang around to the point we become something we’re usually not – snippy, irritable, argumentative, anxious, etc. My expectations, of self and others, are probably the culprit. Someone once told me to get my expectations in line with reality. Good advice. What is it you are expecting for your Christmas celebration, vacation, etc., that is unlikely to go the way you planned? Go ahead and modify that expectation back to reality. If your expectations are out of line, it is unlikely you will have a stress free Christmas.
My Methods for Reducing Holiday Stress
Before I even write this section, I will admit my ways will probably not fit some people’s personalities. That’s okay. Take what you like and forget the rest.
1. Don’t buy anything I can’t afford.
This seems like a no-brainer. However, one of the worst things we can do is extend holiday spending past the holidays with a credit card bill in January. Just don’t. Having those bills will greatly reduce your chances of a stress free Christmas.
Now, don’t question my faith by this, but the celebration of Christmas, today, isn’t really about the birth of a Savior for most of us. Yes, I am glad for the birth of Jesus and I acknowledge that as the stated reason for Christmas in the first place. Apart from special services and programs at church and some nativity scenes here and there, celebration of Jesus’ birth doesn’t enter into Christmas a great deal.
Christmas, for most of us, is about family get-togethers, large dinners, exchanging gifts, and don’t forget, spending lots of money. By the way, Jesus never said we needed to have a birthday party for Him in the first place! If you think Christmas is “too commercial,” you might be right. Don’t let this ruin your stress free Christmas dreams. It is what it is and it’s better to just acknowledge that and be done with it. Until people stop spending money on Christmas (unlikely in any stretch of the imagination), it will be this way.
3. Do away with expectations altogether.
I know, I know. This one is hard for a lot of people. I simply decided at some point that I’ll just let my wife tell me what she wants to do for Christmas and go with it. I just don’t have any expectations. I know about the way things will be at this gathering or that one. I don’t have expectations for gifts, schedules, food choices, or anything else. It’s a time for me to not try to control things.
4. Say no to things I can’t do.
I have a busy schedule as it is. Adding more things in is always difficult. If I can’t do something or be a certain place, then I say no. There’s no guilt involved. I just can’t. If I can change something to make it happen because it’s something I want to do, then fine. If not, then no is the answer. Some people need help with saying no. Since it is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we might want to listen to some of His words. In Matthew 5:37, Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Say yes when you mean yes. Say no when you mean no. Saying yes to something you don’t want to do is actually dishonest. It will do little more than add stress and frustration to your life.
Having a stress free Christmas is possible. Don’t spend money you don’t have, recognize and accept it is a commercial holiday, don’t have unrealistic (or any) expectations, and don’t say yes to things you don’t want to do. Go ahead and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
What are some things you do to reduce or eliminate holiday stress?