5 ways to slow down this Christmas season
I went to yoga for the first time in my life last week. I’ve lived with severe back pain and tight muscles pretty much my entire life, and I carry a lot of my stress in my neck and back muscles.
Normally I just live with the pain, but this Fall my back flared up so bad that I could barely walk. After five trips to the chiropractor and a couple of therapeutic massages, I decided it was time to slow down and try some yoga and just relax.
In a way, how I approach my back pain is how a lot of Americans approach the Christmas season. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, we’re going and going until we can’t go anymore. The stress builds like back pain until it becomes debilitating.
We get so caught up in the hustle of the season that we risk robbing ourselves of the joy it can bring.
Much of the stress we feel comes from the pressure to buy as much as possible and do as much as possible.
The National Retail Federation conducted a study in which it discovered that the average American is expected to spend $920 on Christmas gifts, up from $885 in 2018. Americans are expected to spend more than $1 trillion on Christmas-related purchases.
My wife and I love buying Christmas gifts and Christmas cards and getting completely into the season. If gift giving is your love language, this season is both a blessing and a curse. I get really excited when I see things I know my family and friends would love, and I have to actively stop myself to not go overboard on purchases.
My wife and I don’t have kids yet, but we have seven nieces and nephews between our two families, and gifts for them alone can get expensive.
With the end of the year near, there’s also pressure to “finish strong” and do all the things to go out of the year with a bang and get started on the new year strong.
Whether it’s work-related or personal, there’s a tendency to feel rushed and cram work in or scramble to meet a goal by the end of the year.
The pressure builds and the tension rises. It’s time we slow down.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2, ESV
Here are five ways to slow down this Christmas season.
1. Forget those Christmas cards. Donate the money instead.
It’s easy to spend upwards of $200 or $300 on Christmas cards — even more if you pay for professional photos to be taken for them.
That’s a lot of money to spend before you’ve even done the bulk of your Christmas shopping.
My wife and I love sending and receiving Christmas cards, but after we spent nearly $250 on them this year, I had an idea for future Christmases: Why not use that same money to bless someone else instead?
There are so many ways to be generous this time of the year — there’s the Salvation Army, Giving Tuesday following all the retail “holidays,” Operation Christmas Child, or even ways to give through your church.
Rather than ordering and sending Christmas cards, take that money to a homeless shelter or a family you know could use it. You’ll feel less stressed trying to get all of those Christmas cards addressed and sent and you’ll know your money is going to bless someone who could really use it.
2. Spend less
Easier said than done, right? But if you’ve got a big family, engage in a dialogue about either setting a budget per person or drawing names out to buy gifts for certain people.
In my early 20’s when I was working in journalism and not making a whole lot of money, buying gifts for everyone in my family often brought on a lot of anxiety. It can become an incredibly expensive time, and not everyone is mindful of other people’s budget.
I know for my nieces and nephews, they don’t need any more toys or “things.” We’ve started to replace those sorts of gifts with experiential gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. Usually you save money and it creates a family memory.
3. Cut out what you don’t need
This is true all the time, right? But whether you’re single or married with a family, take inventory of things you did the year before or typically do each year. Make a list of things you can live with or live without. If you’re married, compare your list with your spouse and see where your priorities align.
It’s okay to say yes to things, but it’s also okay to say no. Maybe skip that Christmas party this year for a night in. Maybe skip that yearly tradition that’s fun but also a hassle and puts a dent into the budget.
If it’s going to cause more stress than joy, let it go.
4. Get off the phone
There’s a lot of momentum right now to cut out the hustle and hurry in our lives. Jefferson Bethke, John Mark Comer, Rebekah Lyons and Emily Ley are just a few people who recently published books about cutting out hurry from our lives. This idea was also the inspiration behind my podcast “In No Hurry.”
One way to do this is to put our phones away and be present with the people in our lives. There are apps that allow you to set limits on how long you can spend on social media or other apps that typically take up your time.
If you haven’t already, this is a good time to establish a Sabbath, even if that’s just a few hours on a Wednesday night where you’re quiet and just with God, uninterrupted and not distracted, for a period of time. If establishing a Sabbath or more balance in your life is going to be a goal of yours in the new year, December is a good time to start.
5. Do an Advent study
She Reads Truth/He Reads Truth have a great Advent study on their app that takes less than 10 minutes to do each day. It costs money, but there are plenty of other resources out there for free that help guide you along the story of Advent that allows you to pause each day and focus on why we as Christians celebrate this season to begin with.
This could be a great daily activity to do with your spouse or your family, or by yourself, to establish a designated time of prayer, peace, and reflection with God. Perhaps replace a costly tradition with this one.
There will be plenty of pressure to get caught up in the hustle machine that is Christmas season. But this year, find your own rhythm and create the space you need to slow down and just enjoy the season.