Although Christmas is widely known for the spreading of cheer, the warmth of family and friends, or kindness given through the giving and receiving of gifts, for many, the holidays are tinged with painful reminders of strained relationships, financial struggles, trauma, loss, or the hole of a missing loved one. There is a lot of good happening if one looks around, but there is also a lot of noise and pressure that can discreetly chip away at our peace in the flurry of busy activities.
Colossians 3:15 says to, “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your mind.” It’s important to continually and intentionally practice the art of rest, not only to thrive in the busy seasons, but also to avoid burnout or a crash in the new year when things quiet down and the world returns to a bit more sustainable pace. Have you allowed your peace to be hijacked by anxiety?
Here are some questions to evaluate yourself and some practical ways to practice self care this time of year:
Are you prioritizing your responsibilities and protecting your “Yes?” Your health and your family are first priority. If your circle of priorities is too broad, your family will suffer. If you want your “yes” to hold value where it matters, you have to say “no,” probably much more than you think. This is a hard one for people pleasers and servant hearts. Boundaries don’t mean you are a mean person or have no compassion. It simply means you can’t be a savior to people. (Plus, you can’t truly help others if you aren’t healthy.) Stewarding what is valuable starts with you. That may mean making some changes. (Example: Working less, reducing stress triggers, saying no to activities when you need sleep or to spend time with your wife or kids.) If you feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown, cut out stress while you are still healthy enough to mange it! You won’t regret catching it early.
Are you setting reasonable goals? Making too many commitments is a good recipe for burn out. Maybe it’s time to cut some things out and call it a (successful!) day. This isn’t an invitation to settle for mediocrity, but a reminder to give yourself grace. You aren’t an invincible superhero. Keep this in mind over the new year when people often make resolutions. You can and should be changing and getting better every year! However, whatever projects and goals are important to you, try to keep it simple, flexible, and sustainable. Remember, your value is not dependent on your performance. You are more than enough.
Are you being intentional about rest and fun? I’m sure your to-do list, whether physical or mental, gets daily attention. Have you scheduled rest in there too? You should do something to relax and have fun every day. Maybe it’s drinking hot chocolate over a good movie, taking a hot bath, hiding from your kids in the bathroom to read a book, if you’re a mom, or escaping to the bedroom, if you’re married. 🙂 It doesn’t even have to be inactivity, but a hobby or something enjoyable that engages a different part of the brain and rest the parts that are normally working. As long as it is healthy, make it happen!
Are you worshipping? The joy of the Lord is your strength. If you feel weak, you need joy! In His presence is fullness of joy. Thanksgiving is like a secret password into the presence of God. Feelings don’t always have to match up, but it’s a heart posture that is possible, even in pain or grieving. Its not a thing of working up your own happiness. It’s a royal trade. He gets your heaviness; you get His joy. Sometimes when I’m in a funk, turning on some worship music and dancing creates an instant shift inside.
Are you taking care of yourself physically? You are made up of a body, soul, and spirit. The health of each affects the other. Are you disregarding your physical care? There is a supernatural aspect of healing and health, regardless of where you are, but maturity knows that eating twinkies instead of wholesome meals is not wise stewardship or honoring to the miracle of health we expect for our bodies. Are you going to bed in time to get solid hours of sleep? Are you getting fresh air and drinking water? (Coffee does not count.😉 It is actually dehydrating, unfortunately.) Decreased sun exposure and lack of water are big reasons for sickness and depression in the winter time. This does not make you weak; this makes you fearfully and wonderfully made! You need that vitamin d to keep your hormones happy! It’s not a bad idea to supplement those lacking vitamins and work up a detoxing sweat with regular exercise during the winter months. (If depression or anxiety is severe or repetitive, it might be helpful to get a hormone analysis done. Balanced hormones can be a game changer!)
Are you suiting up spiritually to combat winter blues? Put on the armor of God. Learn to minister to yourself in the Lord. Pray in the Spirit. Read and listen to scripture and promises. Play worship music. This might sound silly, but I have found that I crave kid’s scripture worship music. It’s one thing to read that God is faithful and good. It’s a game changer to have those truths sung over your life, especially from the mouths of children with simple faith. It was David’s harp playing (worship) that kept demons from tormenting Saul. Spiritual tormentors can’t stand worship and can not stay in the presence of God.
Are the people you keep close toxic or building you up? Part of staying emotionally and spiritually healthy is accountability with loving friends and mentors. This is not an accountability of condemnation for your failures. It is the speaking and ministering of life that gives you momentum to overcome and be who you are designed to be. Do you have people you trust in your life that know what you are going through? People who truly know? Even though it might be tempting to become a hermit, (especially if it seems like no one can fully understand your pain) humans need profitable interaction and encouragement. Invite intimacy (appropriate for your situation) into your life. Intimacy: into-me-you-see. As far as people dragging you down with toxic mindsets, this is where changes might be helpful to protect your mental and spiritual health and growth. If someone still wants to be in your life after you put up a boundary, they will need to upgrade their behavior to match your self-respect.
Above the noise of many demanding, pressuring, clamoring voices vying for attention, there is one still small voice, that pierces though and silences all. The fear of God silences all other fears. In my mind, I see God raising both hands, while all heavenly and spiritual influences pause to see what he will do. In a steady, low voice, His mouth releases the word, “CALM.” His hands suppress the fires of turmoil as he lowers them, releasing the sweet presence of peace. He is the one who has given us eternal, undivided attention. Nothing else satisfies like the Father’s love and friendship.
If you identity with holiday related stress or anxiety, my love and prayers are with you. May you have the wisdom to steward what God has given you, and may the peace of God rule in your hearts. Merry Christmas! ❤️
Note: I do not own the photos in this post.