Christmas can be the most wonderful or the most awful time of year.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). -Matthew 1:23 NIV
Ahhh the holidays… hot coffee, warm blankets, Christmas trees, the smells and the sights of the season of Christmas. We all know the reason for the season of Christmas is Jesus but there are all the trappings of Christmas that come as well. Some of these are most enjoyable like Elf and The Christmas Story and then the food like peanut butter fudge and chocolate chip cookies. Of course presents are nice too. But most of all it’s family, seeing and spending time to those closest to us. Unfortunately, this time of year can be painful for those who have experienced loss, hurt, divorce, or abuse in the family dynamic. The pain is real and processing it is important for us to make it a wonderful time of year. The great thing about this time of year is that we can make it wonderful or awful but it is completely up to us. I’m going to give you a few ways to help keep the joy in Christmas and to keep emotionally fit. It’s up to us to be happy.
Adjust Your Focus
If our focus is to have the picture perfect Christmas then we will be let down. Our focus should be on Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Just like any other time of year, when we stay focused on God then our hearts are at peace.
Set the Right Expectations
We love the idea of a magical Christmas… all the Hallmark movies kind propagate this idea too. Maybe because of the day of Christmas everything can be healed and ok right? Well maybe, but it’s unlikely. Christmas can stir the emotions in us to want to forgive and be forgiven but we must set our expectations correctly. I’ve learned to set mine low on people but high on Jesus. Keeping our expectations realistic is healthy for us. Think about it, if the lost family member hasn’t reached out to you all year, they may not reach out to you on Christmas. If they do, great… but if they don’t, do not allow your emotions to be affected by their lack of care. This is where we must have faith. We pray and ask God to move on their hearts. This keeps our expectation on the Lord and not the person. People will always let us down but God never will.
Instagram and Facebook are definite emotion tweakers! Don’t compare someone’s highlight reel to your behind the scenes. What you see on social media isn’t the full picture. It’s just a snapshot. Don’t compare your Christmas experience to and Instagram picture. How silly! And don’t compare your Christmas experience to someone else’s either. Comparison is a killer. A killer of gratefulness, creativity, and your own experience. If we are constantly comparing our experience to someone else’s then we’ve actually missed out on our own experience! If you can’t stand not being on social media then maybe you need a break from it! I’d actually challenge you to not even look at it until 2016! This will help keep you happy, focused on your own life, and keep your emotions in check this Christmas.
Watch Your Appetites
With the holidays comes celebration. Most celebrations have alcohol. Watching our appetites in the area of consumption would do us well this Christmas. Obviously I’m a recovery advocate so I don’t partake in drinking, but many people do. An occasional glass of wine or beer isn’t going to do much harm but if you find yourself seeking solace from the bottle then you are sure to have a depressing holiday. Alcohol is a depressant naturally so of course it will affect your mood. There are different chemicals triggered in our brains that cause us to experience emotion. I know it’s not popular but instead of another helping of mashed potatoes or a cocktail, maybe we should hit the treadmill or go for a walk. Exercise produces the chemical serotonin which causes us to feel happy. Laughter also produces serotonin so maybe watching a comedy is a good way to go too! We need to know our triggers and avoid them.
This truly can be the most wonderful time of year, but it’s up to us to choose that! My prayer is… this Christmas you experience the joy of the birth of our Savior Jesus.
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Please leave your thoughts if you feel led and let’s continue the conversation! May God bless you!