How to Cope with Holiday Stress: 6 Tips to Help You Keep Your Peace

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. ~ Sydney J. Harris

Have you noticed that the holidays seem to bring out the best … and worst … in people? It seems every friend, relative and client has a ‘Scrooge’ story to share.

  • Spouses who don’t want the house decorated or events planned.
  • Seniors who insist the family dinner has to be their way at their house on their schedule.
  • Kids who expect more than their parents can provide.
  • Grief, loneliness, depression and anger that seem to magnify during the holidays.
  • More social events than one person could ever attend … or reciprocate.
  • Financial pressures and excessive expectations that add more stress.
  • Unrealistic desires for the perfect gift (given or received), perfect party, perfect holiday.

It may seem like everyone wants more than you can possibly deliver, expects more than you can possibly do, and hopes you will be their source of peace, joy and fulfillment. It really is just too much. Your mind and emotions tilt into overload and the best solution seems to be – hide till it’s over! So, how do you cope with other people’s tantrums, attitudes and expectations?

Don’t take it to heart. Your heart, your spirit, is the very center of your being. Protect it by giving people the benefit of mercy. Mercy is defined as ‘lenient or compassionate treatment; forbearance’. Mercy overlooks bad attitudes, hurtful words and a myriad of negative situations. There’s truth in the saying, ‘hurting people hurt people’. Don’t absorb their pain or internalize their expectations. Instead, eschew evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Tell yourself, “I will not allow another person to steal my peace.”

Do stay in love. No matter what you’re dealing with, remember the Biblical promise, Love never fails (I Cor. 13:8). Responding with harsh words or reacting in anger will only escalate the situation. Love is not an emotion; it is a source of divine power to overcome any circumstance. Use the God-kind of love—always hopeful, not jealous, boastful, proud rude, or irritable (v.4-7) to stay centered. Remind yourself, ”I am rooted and grounded in love.”

Don’t try to fix it. You cannot change another person’s emotional turmoil no matter how much you might want to. But you can create some emotional distance for yourself. Walk away. Focus on a different activity. Take a lesson from Jacob, Isaac’s son. He was deceived by Laban, his uncle and eventual father-in-law, for more than a decade. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times, but God did not suffer him to hurt me (Gen. 31:6-7). Say to yourself, “Their attitudes and expectations are not my responsibility.”

Do remember to pray. Nothing is more powerful. Jesus reminded you to watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Don’t be tempted to retaliate. Instead, claim God’s promise of peace ‘My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you … Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed …]’ (John 14:27) Both Jesus and Paul reminded us to Pray without ceasing. Pray for peace and harmony for those who irritate and disturb you.

Don’t retaliate. Acting out in your own hurt and anger will only make things worse. Practice forgiveness, patience and a great deal of self-control. But I say unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 5:44-45). Let go of some of your own expectations where other people are concerned. Ask yourself, “Is being right, or being heard, more important than my peace?”

Do be kind to yourself. Get enough sleep. Take breaks throughout the day. Listen to favorite music. Laugh out loud. Dance. Sing. Buy yourself a present! Proverbs 17 confirms that ‘a merry heart is good medicine’ (v. 22). That’s true for spiritual and emotional health as well as physical well-being. A merry heart can also be contagious; so be a carrier of joy and good will and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Eph. 4:32).

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10). No matter what pressures you face this season, remember the real reason we celebrate. Remind yourself that, like Abraham, you have more blessings than the lights on your tree (or the stars in the sky). Rejoice in and be grateful for the true Spirit of Christmas.

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