November 19, 2013

De-stressing the Christmas season

By Cheryl Dickow *

The Christmas season which ought to be one of peace and good cheer is often everything other than tranquility and joy. Family events and fractured relationships bring stress where they should be gatherings that refresh and renew.

For a Christian, this really doesn’t have to be the case. It really shouldn’t be the case and a few tips to take into the Christmas season will help replace angst and strain with harmony and pleasure.

First and foremost, Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. When we lose sight of that and begin focusing on our family get-togethers and the obligations of smiling and hugging people with whom we hold grudges, we take our eyes off of Christ.

Like Peter stepping out onto the water, it is important for us to remember through the entire Christmas season that this is really all about the birth of our Savior; it really isn’t about us!

When we remember that Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Christ, we are able to more clearly see others through His eyes. This means that we aren’t as likely to see the hurt in our relationships but the way that Christ loves that person who has hurt or harmed us.

Seeing one another through Christ’s eyes allows us to move past pain and sorrow and anxiety and into a place of love and kindness. All the exterior facades fall away and we can embrace one another in Christ’s love.

Then there’s forgiveness.

Everyone struggles with forgiveness in one form or another. While forgiving people who have hurt us is important, it is often accomplished in steps or stages. Don’t look at Christmas as a time where you have to feel total and complete forgiveness for everyone but as a time to take at least one more step in the right direction. From that vantage point, Christmas becomes less stressful because we aren’t in a position to have to become perfect but simply become “on our way.”

Along with seeing others through the eyes of Christ and taking forgiveness one step at a time there’s the physiological aspect of stress which we can counter by breathing.

That’s right – breathe this Christmas season!

Breath deep.

Studies show that when we are stressed we don’t breathe deeply and thus only increase the way our bodies are succumbing to stress. Become conscious of your breathing during the Christmas season and make sure to take time to breathe deep and relax.

While you are breathing deep, invite the Holy Spirit into your life. Don’t pick up the phone or get in the car without asking the Holy Spirit to be part of whatever it is you are doing. Heading over to your in-law’s or company party? Breathe deep and ask the Holy Spirit to be part of the experience with you. This will allow you to rest in the spirit and see everyone through Christ’s eyes and speak words of love. Inviting the Holy Spirit into whatever you happen to be doing will also help you hear the words of others with kindness and charity. That friend who always seems to throw verbal zingers your way will be heard differently when you listen with the Holy Spirit in you.

Finally, keep Christmas simple. The biggest gift has already been purchased: Your Salvation through Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Use this Christmas season as a time for personal relationships—more reflective of the one you have with Christ or are developing with Christ.

The Christmas presents you give shouldn’t be bought in a frenzy or in haste. Let them become more special, more fun this year. Consider making the perfect Christmas basket for your friends and family.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ.

It is a time of peace and goodwill. It is a time of simplicity.

All the Black Friday deals in the world cannot beat the deal of a Savior being born. So as the stores ramp up their promotions and the hype increases everywhere that you are connected, take a step back, breathe deep, and rejoice in the birth of Christ in a purposeful, peaceful way.

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome. It is the sequel to her first fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Both are available in paperback, Kindle, or Nook format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at [email protected] or phone her at 248.917.3865.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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