Christmastime is sometimes anything but peace on earth and holy nights. How can we cut back the anxiety of the season to enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth with our families? Rhett Smith, author of The Anxious Christian (releasing in March 2012) shares a few tips.
Just the other day I was reading through Allen Hugh Cole Jr.’s great book on anxiety, called Be Not Anxious: Pastoral Care for Disquieted Souls. In the book I was introduced to the phrase “hurry sickness” which was coined by James Gleick (insert: the hustle and bustle of the holiday season). Cole claims that “hurry sickness” is a contributing factor to much of the anxiety that you and I experience in our daily lives, “exacerbating it in ways similar to those of fear.” We can all relate. Around the holidays many of us find ourselves in more of a hurry and experience more anxiety than any other time of year.
Why is it that in a season where we continually hear the phrase “peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” there seems to be so little peace in our own lives?
Perhaps you find yourself trying to keep up with everyone else this year and it’s running you ragged. Maybe your Christmas wish list exceeds the amount of money in your checking account. Or it’s just possible that all the busy activities of the Christmas season have you focused on all the unimportant things.
In the past, I’ve found myself full of anxiety in the hustle and bustle of busy shopping malls and crowded roads. In an attempt to deal with this apprehension, I’ve experimented with a few holiday practices that perhaps may be helpful in your own life.
Keep it Simple
Too many people get involved in too many things during the holidays, so it’s important to really focus on what’s essential. Ask yourself the question: What would I be most disappointed in this Christmas holiday if it didn’t happen? The answer can help you identify where to focus your time and planning. For example, I would be most disappointed if there wasn’t some time set apart for relaxation, where my family and I could play games together and hang out.
Create an Environment of Thankfulness
Start each day by telling others (i.e. family members, friends, co-workers, God) what you are most thankful for. Focusing on what we are thankful for keeps us grounded and lowers our anxiety as we pay more attention to what we have in our lives, rather than what we don’t have. I’ve found that the more I practice thankfulness, the less material items I need or want at Christmas.
Consider Creative Alternatives to Buying Gifts
Instead of buying gifts this Christmas, consider using the money for something else. For example, you could donate the money to a charity, or shop together and buy gifts for a family in need. Some charities like World Vision or Samaritan’s Purse provide catalogs that allow you to buy gifts that will change lives…a goat that can provide milk cheese and yogurt for a family in Africa or a dairy cow that will provide 5,000 gallons of milk in its lifetime. Or maybe you can put the money you would have spent on gifts towards a savings account for a family vacation next year.
Be creative. Have the discussion with all members of the family and make a decision together to try something new. Trying new practices at Christmas can help us keep the holiday in perspective and bring us a new sense of peace that we have never felt before.
Rhett Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Auxano Counseling in Plano,TX and a therapist for The Hideaway Marriage Experience in Amarillo, TX. He is the author of The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? (Moody, March 2012). He lives in Frisco, TX with his wife Heather and their two children. You can find our more about Rhett at his blog www.rhettsmith.com or his counseling website www.rhettsmithcounseling.com And be sure to follow him online at twitter.com/rhetter.
What traditions do your family practice to beat “hurry sickness” during the holidays? What Christmas events, activities, or downtime do you most enjoy and look forward to each year?
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