Every Christmas I look forward to a festive time preparing for Christmas. But then reality sets in. More specifically, overwhelm sets in, and I lose my Christmas joy before I am through the first week in December. I fall victim to expectations, negative memories from the past and anxiety for the coming weeks. Thinking I may not be alone in this dilemma, I’ve compiled some easy tips for a calm and bright Christmas season.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
when all is not calm and bright
Truthfully, we probably all experience some level of anxiety during the holiday season. And this year in particular, even the stoics may feel a twinge of anxiety. We need to think more creatively about our get togethers, activities and even beloved event traditions due to COVID-19. This alone adds a layer of stress to a potentially demanding time.
Then the consideration that the holidays can present some with difficult emotions due to losses this past year, illness or negative memories from the past. Working in hospice and grief ministries exposes me to many people who do not find joy in the holidays. Personally, I carry a good deal of negative baggage into the holiday season. For those reasons I developed some tips for a calm and bright Christmas season.
redeeming the christmas season
If you find yourself relating to the stress of the season, frustration and anxiety due to COVID-19 or dealing with loss and negativity from the past, all is not lost. As I learned and wrote about in this post, focusing on the true meaning of Advent through Christ’s first and second comings, gives new meaning to Christmas. Emmanuel is God with us in every season, situation and emotional battle.
Taking time each day, purposefully slowing down, reflecting and spending quiet moments with God changes everything. It breathes new life and meaning into preparations, gatherings and even gift giving. Setting our focus on Emmanuel, we realize God is with us providing comfort in difficult moments. He speaks peace into the chaos of our thoughts and strengthened by His love we love others well.
tips for a calm and bright christmas season
A mindful approach to the holiday season can help reduce anxiety, increase compassion, empathy and patience both with yourself and others. Additionally, it keeps you present, enjoying the moments before you and allowing increased sensitivity to God’s presence in your everyday moments.
Experiencing more sensitivity to God’s presence in the ordinary moments of my day excites me. After all, this season is His season! I long for all He desires to reveal to me during this time, without missing anything! Take a few moments and walk with me through the following tips for a calm and bright Christmas!
Let Go of Old Christmas Memories Rooted in Bad Patterns or Habits
Every family has its “traditions” and memories, but some of them perpetuate negativity. It’s easy to do what you’ve always done, fearing change or the retribution of change. Perhaps the tradition for opening gifts on Christmas has grown tiresome or empty. Decorating seems more mechanical than enjoyable or why do we have to watch the same movie on Christmas Eve every year? None of these things are wrong, but they create boredom and indifference.
Notice these feelings when they creep in with curiosity, not condemnation. Don’t allow the highlight reel from past negative thoughts start playing in your mind. Stay in the current moment and ask yourself if a change may prove beneficial. Choosing to leave the past in the past with its feelings and negativity opens the opportunity for new experiences in the present.
Accept All of Your Emotions in the Season
The holidays have a way of uncovering emotions we may better control at other times. While the festive atmosphere evokes excitement and celebratory emotions, you may also experience sadness, grief or loneliness. Especially this year if you cannot gather with loved ones or experienced loss during the year.
It’s important to make space and accept the emotions you feel. “What you resist persists”; if you refuse uncomfortable emotions you train your brain to fear them. Just because an emotion feels “bad” doesn’t mean it is bad. Psychologist Joan Rosenberg reinforces the fact that any emotion lasts 90 seconds without resistance. If you allow the emotions to come, acknowledge them, accept them, then let go, they flow through and are gone in 90 seconds. She advocates using mindful breathing the moment you feel an uncomfortable emotion, calmly sitting with it until it’s gone.
Try my FREE Calming Techniques Guide for proven breathing techniques that help relieve anxiety. Grab yours HERE!
Accept the Emotions of Others in the Season
Remember, if you struggle emotionally during the holiday season, know that others may as well. Increase your awareness of how others may show their own emotions; cultivate compassion and empathy, creating opportunities for connection. From my own experience I can testify that a kind word spoken to a heavy heart brings tremendous comfort. You may be the only person brave enough to speak into their pain.
Not so surprisingly, when we offer kindness and space for others that struggle emotionally, we bring healing to our own hearts.
Practice Active Listening
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Active listening communicates you value the other person and hear them. People confuse active listening with the idea that you agree with everything someone says. In hospice and grief counseling we use active listening as a tool for comfort and validation. You simply engage the other person with your full attention, offering a smile or nod as encouragement while they tell their “story” or whatever they have on their mind. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, you simply “listen” attentively.
A pleasant benefit of active listening, you may notice you hear and observe more than usual. Put the effort forth and attempt understanding through not only their words, but body language and actions. Of course anytime you attempt active listening, distractions should be eliminated. It may surprise you how much you learn and enjoy offering the gift of active listening to others!
Expand Your Perception of Christmas Giving
A huge stressor at Christmas time often results from gift giving. From who to gift, to gift spending budgets, to that “hard to buy for” person and the obligatory gifts. All collide in a sea of anxiety and expectation that overwhelms even the seasoned shopper. Instead, try a more intentional, reflective approach to gift giving this year.
Hopefully, the majority of our gift giving occurs as a result of showing we care about people in our lives. Before heading out to the store or getting online for shopping, ask “What do I want to communicate with this gift?” Can you think of other ways that will communicate your love and support? Surprisingly, not everyone wants nor expects a gift. Sometimes a meaningful note including Bible verses you pray over that person conveys more love and care than a wrapped gift.
a calm and bright christmas
I pray the above tips for a calm and bright Christmas offer help as you navigate this Christmas season. Ultimately, our hope and peace do not rest in even the most beloved Christmas traditions, but in the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel.
Determine to remain present this Christmas season, embracing all God has for you. Seek ways to make even more room in your heart for Jesus, truly celebrating the Greatest Gift ever given. Allow Emmanuel to speak His presence into your hard places, sorrow and anxiety, transforming the shadows with His Light.
Whether or not you have a specific Advent tradition, my new resource, “Welcoming Emmanuel” Bible Verse Reflections to Prepare Your Heart For Christmas”, is a wonderful addition or stand alone resource designed to enrich your daily quiet times. The best part? It’s FREE! Sign up below and grab your copy today!