Christmas is almost here. In fact, retail stores began the season by displaying Christmas products before Halloween, to the dismay of many. It is coming fast, and with it comes stress in physical, social, spiritual, relational, and psychological forms. How can we cope with all of this? How can we stay fully functional and get all the shopping done?
Consider treating your shopping like an athletic event. In fact, as you contend with crowds, it may become just that, but I digress. When preparing for a 5K run, for example, there are things you would do. For example, stay hydrated. Increase your water intake. It will keep you from overeating and help combat the diuretic effects of caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, and salty foods. You’ll feel better.
Remember that when you are stressed, your muscles may be tight and relatively inflexible. You are more prone to injury, especially when tired, so pace yourself. Be more careful than usual about what you lift and how. If you hurt something, call me.
You may be walking more than usual on hard concrete floors. Wear sensible shoes. Recent studies suggest that 60% of women wear shoes that are uncomfortable for the fashion statement they make. My experience suggests that this figure is significantly underestimated.
Remember that we are in Georgia, where the weather is hard to predict. This morning’s low temperature was around 29 degrees, but I was able to drive my convertible this afternoon with the top down comfortably. Wear clothes that are layered so you have the option of being warm as well as the option to remove layers and stay cooler.
Leave the purse at home, as it is just something else to carry, and it may make you a target for thugs. Use your pockets or a fanny pack. This also means you are lighter and lifting less.
Take breaks. Sit down with a friend and a snack every hour or two. Plan some fun and enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of the season.
And, as unorthodox or politically incorrect as it may be, I would suggest another holiday stress reduction technique: pause, and remember. Here is what I mean.
The fire crackles and snaps as I write this. I like to sit here in my chair with the tree lit, casting its festive, white lights and shadows on the walls, and quietly think and reflect on the season. I may enjoy some reinforced egg nog after a long day at work. Sometimes I turn off the television and just sit. Mood lighting is provided by the fire and the tree.
I pause to remember Christmases when my parents were living, when life was simpler, when the wonder of Christmas was somehow more magical, when there was anticipation of something supernatural and exciting. I remember friends and events long gone.
My mind goes to a night two millennia ago that was planned and predicted before creation. On that wondrous night, a star announced a birth of a baby that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. He was, after all, just a baby born to pilgrims on their way to pay taxes. He was nothing special to the world around Him that anyone would be aware of Him.
But He was at once the Son of Man and Son of God. He would grow up, studying, learning, and playing with children for whom He would ultimately give his own life. Who would have thought that this little boy was the One of whom angels sang and the prophets wrote?
And so it was that on that night the central figure of all of history was born. The world would change forever as a result. People did not know what to do with Him, and many still do not. What each individual believes about this little child might make all the difference in this world and the next.
Because I spend much of my time laying hands on people with healing intent in obedience to the will of that very child, I like to think of Christmas as a house call from the Great Physician Himself, the one who healed by His stripes, as Isaiah foretold. He still heals, for indeed all healing comes through Him.
Christmas is still a stressful time for me, too, filled with too much rushing and shopping and overeating. Amidst the chaos of the season, the man-made commercial rat race we have made of His birth, it helps me to pause and remember. It helps relieve stress. In fact, it is how I can find peace.