Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keeping Your Joy During The Christmas Season

Over the last couple of years, the month of December has been catching me by 'surprise'. Its generally a whirlwind from November all through to the New Year with church events, our Positively Africa band shows, kids, work etc. I keep researching ways to keep my joy so I can actually celebrate the real reason for the Christmas season.

Some of my coping strategies:

  1. I minimize watching shows on "must have" gifts to buy - obligatory shopping stresses me out!
  2. We only put up decorations when its fun not because others have them up already!
  3. Our preschooler son loves toys! In December we read a bedtime story about Jesus' birth from a kid's Christmas Bible which he loves. We remind him the holiday is about giving to God through giving to others - not just getting toys.
  4. I play Christmas music and turn it off the minute I start getting stressful urges to shop :)
  5. This year I'll give personalized meaningful gifts and cards that don't require a ton of spending
  6. We are repackaging and wrapping some of my son's toys because he's forgotten he even had them! We'll only add at most 2 new toys that we've promised since October. We wish well-meaning people would STOP asking him what Santa is giving him for Christmas! 
  7. I emotionally brace myself before making Christmas calls to Africa because I miss my brothers terribly  (mom died 2001). Through we talk every couple of weeks through the year & chat on facebook, the holiday season hits us the hardest. If you are calling long-distance family members, please remember, you cannot solve long standing family issues or the latest drama over the phone. Keep the call relevant and deflect mine field topics by redirecting the conversation or not contributing answers.
  8. For those of us living far from family members (another continent), consider giving grocery vouchers, cell phone airtime, wire spending money, buy a goat, give school fees voucher, a current year picture album, a care package etc. Be sure to use a reputable company and read fine print on extra fees for buying from afar.
  9. My husband and I put spending limits on our personal gifts - an example is each person spends $50 on the other - it makes it exciting to think creatively and not be bothered with extra bills after the holidays. I got into credit card trouble a couple of years back, we now use cash or debit cards (checking account). We are taking a Dave Ramsey money class and learned great tips on negotiating :)
  10. We often go to the store the day after Christmas and buy any Christmas items we want for the next year at 70% discounts.
More Helpful Tips
  1. If you are traveling to see your family, remember you cannot solve childhood family drama over apple cider or chai (tea) by the fireside! When confronted by family members we often react through the inner child and say regrettable things. Feel free to excuse yourself and take a walk when a discussion threatens to get out of hand, remind the person you want to enjoy your time with them not fight over the past.
  2. Honestly discuss with your spouse/loved one concerns about get-togethers, that way you can both have each others back. Blood speaks to blood - don't unnecessarily confront your in-laws when their child (your spouse) is an expert on how to do it and get results. Avoid family emotional tug-of-wars.
  3. If you are a foreign exchange or international student - please take advantage of the holiday programs offered by the university's international office. Most offer a holiday family exchange, holiday meal celebration and if not, please check with churches, faith-based ministries, religious centers, or nonprofit centers.

Additional Resources

Just Between Us - Holiday stress busters 
CBN Christmas Center - Faith based ideas and help
APA help center - Dealing with holiday stress and families
Mayo Clinic - 10 tips for coping with holiday stress or depression
American Hospice Foundation - Coping with grief during the holiday
University of Wisconsin - International student culture shock stress
International Student Ministry (Intervasity) - 20 Articles on coping in a new place
Coping With infertility and the holidays
Dealing with PTSD and the holiday season
Coping with homesickness for students