Christmas is noted to be the most wonderful time of the year and the happiest season of all still for many of us it is also the most stressful time of the year. Drug and alcohol use increases, and so does binge eating and depression as well as many other potentially harmful things. These past few weeks leading up to Advent we have seen terrorist attacks killing innocent people and the persecution of Christians. Serious issues that have increased fear and stress in many individuals. I recently read an article from a lay minister who had asked a group of women what God inspired dreams they have in their heart right now? Silence fell like a weight quickly in the room. She restructured the question to “What would you do for God if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” again, silence, but this time she decided to wait it out finally one young woman answered “just getting through the day without falling apart” soon the other women chimed in agreeing with her.
Wow! Doesn’t that say a lot? Many are struggling to survive instead of thrive. It seems that everyone I speak to these days has some problem consuming them. Stress levels are high and with Christmas approaching they are soaring higher so what are some ways we can reduce the stress in our lives? I have come up with a list of 5 steps that have helped me; I’m hoping they will help you.
- THE GOD JAR~ During a very difficult time in my life I read a story explaining that the things that we are most stressed about are the things that we can not control. These things although seem huge and may very well be huge but most of the time are only temporary, therefore, let it go.In the story that I read someone explained the God jar like this, put your situation in the God jar then let it go. The very act of writing out the problem on a little slip of paper and placing it in the God jar (the lid is glued on so you can’t retrieve it) is therapeutic. You relinquish your “control” and get out of the way letting God take control of it. Then every time your thoughts begin to go back to worry start praising God instead. Do this every time and you will see the mighty hand of God work miracles in your life.
God will take the wheel if we let Him. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Luke 12:7) “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Mark 12:17) Yes!!! Give to God what belongs to God and that is what we can not control.
2. SACRED SILENCE~
In the midst of chaos, crisis, or any stressful situation you need sacred silence. That means you halt from participating in the situation and become a listener. No need to contribute to an argument or talk in circles of a pretzel, but step back and listen. Listen to what God is speaking to you at the moment. Steal away and go for a walk even if it is just around the block. Go to a park, hike a trail, go to the beach, or whatever place you can find in your area that will bring you a moment of silence.“Silence has a mysterious calming affect, allowing your soul to be at peace with your thoughts.” ~ Anthony Douglas Williams-Inside the Divine Pattern
3. RECOGNIZE THE STRESS SIGNS~ Your body will tell you when you are stressed you may feel your body tensing, soreness in your muscles, clenching or grinding your teeth, heart palpitations, frequent yawning, etc. When you notice any of these signs begin the 4-second breathing.
Inhale and hold for 4 seconds then exhale for a count of 4 seconds. Each time you do this you will release the tension and increase oxygen flow to your body revitalizing it. With each inhale, focus on pushing your stomach out and each exhale, pull your stomach in.
4. PAMPER YOURSELF- Self- care is not selfish; it is self-esteem!! God wants you to take care of yourself. Go to your comfort zone gather lavender stems and hang them from your shower head so the steam can release it’s calming agents. Take an oil bath, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa by the fire, read a good book, treat yourself to a comfort food, light aromatic candles, do something that makes you feel good. Whatever it is you decide to do for yourself remember also to believe in yourself and trust in God that all will be well.
5. LAUGH~ Take the time away from your busy, hectic schedule to have lunch with your friends, learn a new joke, watch a comedy, go to a play or movie reviewed as funny. Laughter is proven to decrease stress as well as many other ailments. It simply makes you feel better almost instantly. Check out this article in PsychCentral on the healing power of humor Psychcentral’s healing power of humor
I hope that you have found these 5 recommendations helpful to you as we approach Advent and Christmas. If you have any suggestions to add to my list that you have found beneficial, please share them with us in the comments box below.