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Planning for the Christmas holidays leaves many cranky, impatient, and depressed

Christmas is right around the corner. As you well know, the holidays are meant to be a time of food, family, and joyful get-togethers, at least in a perfect world. Unfortunately, very few if any, live in a perfect world. So for many, the holidays become a time of undue stress and often extreme frustration. It can feel like a re-run of the “National Lampoon’s Holiday Vacation.”

I believe stress is something everyone deals with during this holiday season. It is usually inevitable. However, what if you and I learned to be proactive, to prepare ourselves for the unexpected and arm ourselves with a preemptive course of action instead of a reactive one? Things might be different huh? I think so.

Here are seven tips that are designed to help you and I arm ourselves for dealing with Holiday stress.

1. Get in touch with your expectations to see if they are truly realistic.

Is it indeed realistic to believe everything could be perfect? I don’t think so. Consequently we have to learn to make room in our expectations for the needs and desires of others. How do I do that? Begin by examining them through proper reflection.

Here are a few tools I use:

  • Do a brain dump of your expectations. Get them out of your head and on to paper.
  • Let this be a process, not a one-time event, i.e. revisit your list.
  • Seek to clarify them in writing. Clarity is power.
  • Allow someone who knows you well to examine your list.
  • Read the rest of this article and notice conclusion!

This is a good start for now. I will address this once more in my “Conclusion” remarks.

2. Manage your time well.

Being adult ADD, I have always been somewhat time challenged. At times, this personal challenge has kept me quite frustrated, especially when it came to doing tasks and assignments. When I begin to understand the concept of margin, things begin to change.

Margin could be defined as the space and time between tasks or events. Margin, when respected, always makes things more comfortable. For example, if you think it will take 30 minutes, factor in another 30 for margin.

Probably the biggest challenge to managing our time is the fact that we build so little margin into our holiday plans. Talk honestly with your spouse about margin and agree on what it looks like for each of you.

3. Try something new over the holidays

New things always reinvigorate the soul. That new thing could be something like a road trip, visiting a museum or simply driving a new way to Grandma’s house. New things don’t have to be expensive, just creative.

Here are a few things I would recommend.

  • Try a new or different genre of a book.
  • Taste a new flavor of coffee.
  • Step outside and notice new sites, sounds, and smells.
  • Try people watching at the mall.
  • Take your iPhone and do a meaningful interview with a total stranger.
  • Download a new app on your phone.

On and on the list could go. I recommend you and your spouse talk about what you want to try new.

4. Rest when your body tells you to.

One of the major causes of stress in our life is the lack of rest. God knew that and so He instituted what we call the Sabbath. The question is … “do you Sabbath?”

Sometimes rest can take on different meanings. It can be as simple as giving your self permission to finish something tomorrow, or something as simple as slowing down for a while. Learn to adopt the idea that it doesn’t have to be done all in one day.

BTW, have you tried a power nap lately?

It is a well-known fact that many past, as well as contemporary leaders mastered the art of taking power naps? Yes, it is true. For example, John Wesley, the great English preacher who by the way, logged enough miles on horseback and buggy to go to the moon, stated that the secret to his strength was the ability to “command sleep.” (i.e. to take a nap) Greats like Winston Churchill, J.F.K., Abraham Lincoln and numerous others practiced regularly what we would call today, power naps.

Rest when your body tells you to. It could make for less stress this holiday season.

5. Stay active

Although rest is imperative, activity is too. Often during the holidays, boredom reigns supreme. I think much of it has to do with the fact that not all activity is stimulating to you or your personal likes. However, keep in mind that you and I are the only ones who can take charge of boredom in our life. The holidays cannot bore me unless I let them.

Stay active. Go for a walk, work a puzzle, bake something new, strike up an interesting conversation. Stay active and alert to debunk holiday stress.

6. Take time to reflect on the significance of Christmas

It goes without saying that this time of the year should always take on a spiritual significance for the child of God. However it is easy to let commercialism and the materialistic sides of Christmas rob us of true spiritual joy.

Maybe you’ve heard about how the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was really a code language that persecuted Christians in years gone by used to celebrate their faith. It’s important that we let nothing rob us of the truth of the season and the peace that is available for the child of God.

Take time to reflect. Revisit the Christmas story, for it still speaks.

7. Spend time with people who care

Finally, it is important to spend time with quality people of whom you know to be caring and loving. They will add something to your life. And by the same token, it is important to endeavor to be that caring person who genuinely cares for others.

As a life coach, remember that you have a rich reservoir of skills in your possession that will help you offer a soothing touch to hurting people. It will typically come through conversation. Take time to strike up deep and meaningful conversations. Employ your coaching skills over the holidays; don’t put them on the shelf. Let’s intentionally coach.

Let every conversation be a coaching conversation!


The truth is that only you and God can pull in the reins on holiday stress. I think He is willing and ready if you and I will do our part. Here is what I recommend:

  • I recommend that each of us get a piece of paper and make a list of our holiday expectations. (physical, emotional, spiritual)
  • Include what you expect from yourself, and from your family.
  • I would dare say that within that list, you might find your potential holiday stressors.
  • Don’t stop there though. Under each stressor, write down what things you might do or change to prevent or lessen that stress.
  • Adopt the changes that will be advantageous to you.
  • Avoid holding on to unrealistic goals like, “This is going to be the best Christmas ever!” Or “I know my kids are going to be on their best behavior this year.” Let that kind of thinking go.

Let’s learn to go with the flow of the Christmas season and let God give us His expectations. Then when “Uncle Eddie” shows up, it’s no big deal!

Coach John


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