Cabarrus Baptist Association launched a telephone/webinar Dec. 18 about holiday stress and how to deal with it. Tom O’Neal, pastoral counselor from The Counseling Center at Charlotte (www.charlottecounseling.org), led the webinar titled “Stress during the holidays.”
General stressors associated with the holidays
According to O’Neal, the general pace of life can be dramatically increased during the holiday season. This can occur in both church life and family life. Ministers and laypersons can get wrapped up in increased activities, special services and programs. This can amount to additional time added to an already overloaded schedule, especially for clergy who tend to be involved in everything, so that they are unable to spend time with their extended families.
With families, “memories of past Christmases naturally flow into present,” O’Neal said. “Sad times, lonely times, disappointed times and happy times are triggered by the gathering of clans or the anticipation of such gatherings.”
Some family gatherings are not always happy — dysfunctions show up and suppressed conflicts may come to surface. Gift-giving can add to that stress, especially if one deviates from the family’s unwritten rules on the subject.
Holiday stress can occur in an ideological sense also. “Guilt regarding the commercialization of the birth of Jesus haunts us,” O’Neal said. “Yet we participate in the cultural revving up.”
Dealing with holiday stressors
Here are some strategies O’Neal suggests for dealing with holiday stress:
Monitor your stress level and find one suitable for you. Set limits.
Capitalize on the potent experience with your faith. Ask yourself: “What does all this have to do with the good news of God’s love?”
Establish family rituals, such as advent wreaths or Christmas Eve services.
Accept that your celebration will not be perfect; that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You fall short of the essence of God’s love, but your falling short need not add to your stress.
Accept your family as they are. You can’t change them. Try to appreciate your history together, even if it is no more than that you have survived your history.
Be open to the idea and potential of birth during this part of the church year. How is God coming again to you?
Due to the current economy, there may be less to go around this year, but it may “get us to the core” of what Christmas is all about, said O’Neal.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — The “Stress during the holidays” webinar will be available as a web cast at www.cbatraining.com at a later date.)