Most of us look forward to the Christmas season with a sense of anticipation and excitment, but unless we are careful, the holidays can rob us of our joy and leave us feeling frazzled, frustrated, even furious. Here are just a few tips to help reduce your stress this year.

1. Identify your triggers. What about Christmas gets on your nerves? Is it the long lines at Walmart, the traffic on the roads and in the air, the annoying relatives you put up with once a year? Maybe it is the sense of inadequacy you feel while trying to meet the demands of others’ expectations for the season. What ever it is, knowing your triggers is half the battle. Only after you’ve identified them, can you work to avoid or prepare for them.

2. Recognize the signs. How do you know your getting overwhelmed: a tightened fist or a clenched jaw, driving too fast, snapping at the kids or the spouse? As soon as you notice these signs, work to counteract them. Maybe get alone for a few minutes to regroup and refocus. Take deep breaths.  Stretch. Pray. Make sure that you are well hydrated and eating routinely and healthily, keeping your body free of toxins that can affect your stress levels.

3. Plan ahead. If you know that the traffic is going to be “terrific” (as the song says) plan to leave 30 minutes early so that you are not in a rush on the road. Shop for Christmas throughout the year rather than scrambling last minute. Sit down with your loved ones and a calendar and plan out the month. With all the different activities, you want to be on the same page, eliminating as many surprises as possible.

4. Simplify – gift cards are not a cardinal sin! Don’t shop out of guilt. You can let someone know you love them and not get them exactly what they want this Christmas.  A well thought out card or note is still a powerful way to communicate love and if the relationship is one worth keeping, they will appreciate it.

5. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Remember if you are stressed, other people are stressed too. Don’t take it personally. Be patient with people who seem overwhelmed by Christmas. Smile, be kind, and try to be understanding. Not only will you feel better, but you just might help brighten someone elses day too.  

6. Role with the punches. (As my mother used to say) Unexpected things happen everyday. They are just more noticable at Christmas! Be prepared for the inevitable surprises and don’t let them ruin your joy.

7.  Remember why we celebrate! – There is no greater joy than knowing the Christ of Christmas. Make sure you get alone with Him this season to thank Him for coming. Christmas stirs up good and bad memories for everyone but, ultimately, the day is not about us! The first Christmas wasn’t as outwardly spectacular as we have made it. A small baby born in a quiet manger off the radar from the rest of the world. Don’t let all the busyness of life cause you to miss the Savior.   

P.S. If your anger goes deeper than just the routine annoyances of the holidays, consider counseling as an option for gaining insight into the wounds that prevent you from fully experiencing the joy of Christmas. Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help!

Question: What other tips do you have for avoiding the Christmas Rage?