We all know that this is the season to be joyful, but the truth? It tends to feel more like the season to be tied up in knots with the ever-growing list of things to get done between now and December 25.
Stop. Breathe. Take a moment to consider your home at this joyful time of year: does it invite peace? Do you relish the way it grounds you and encourages others to relax? Is there a sense of calm? Or does the mayhem of your work, peak-hour traffic and that irate woman at the supermarket follow you into your home?
The home environment is incredibly important to our health and wellbeing. With some simple strategies, during times of increased stress (like in the lead-up to Christmas), we can prepare the home so that it becomes a peaceful oasis, giving the opportunity to reset and recharge before jumping back into the fray.
Tough love is saying the hard things, right? So here goes... if you’re a bit of a stressball in the silly season, get yourself organised. How? Write lists! Grab yourself a piece of paper and empty your head of all the things that must be done. Let the paper carry that weight, instead of your memory. Draw neat little boxes beside each item, and then indulge in the ultimate pleasure of placing a tick in each one as you get them done. You might like to draw a line through it too. Funny how that little action can be so rewarding!
Clutter increases anxiety. Fact. But you’re thinking, sure, one more thing to add to that already arm-length list! It might seem back-the-front to add ‘cleaning’ to your priorities, but we promise it will serve you well. No need to go overboard. Just set aside an hour to sort and clear away those piles of odds and ends. Allow your eyes the relief of resting on uncluttered spaces. Imagine the joy of coming home to a house that isn’t instantly clamoring for a tidy-up. For some, a good cleaning session will even alleviate anxiety. Check out this article looking at the relationship between mental health and cleaning.
It’s such a bustling time of year. So many fun events to attend, opportunities to be part of. But you can have too much of a good thing. Set limits and priorities, and say “no” (nicely!) to the rest. It means you’ll be fully present and fully able to enjoy what you’ve said “yes” to. Anything that distracts you from those core values you hold (perhaps they are of family, friends, generosity...) can definitely be given a delicate flick.
We’re not going to say “teamwork makes the dream work” because that would be daggy and cliched. But... well... it does ring true. You do not have to bear the full responsibility of catering to your family of ten, or twenty, or sixty-eight (unless you love that sort of thing!). Christmas will not be diminished by asking people to contribute. In fact, it will likely be enhanced. When we’re working together towards a common goal, it has the wonderful effect of binding us tighter in relationship, or even mending old rifts.
Look beyond your circumstances
There’s this thing that happens when we get stressed and overwhelmed. Our world closes in and becomes very small. The opposite happens when we give. That is, the world opens up and we glimpse the bigger picture, of how community works. So, as hard as it sounds, if you feel yourself sinking, try writing a card to someone going through a tough patch. Drop a meal to a loved-one. Donate to an appeal. It’s like that line in the Christmas carol, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” They go hand in hand.
Create a sanctuary
Home is where we unplug. It’s a safe place to fall in a heap at the end of a long day. Or it should be. At this time of year, take some time to make your home a sanctuary. We’re not talking anything elaborate, just simple touches like scented candles burning, calming music playing, simple yet nourishing meals, getting to bed on time, reading or watching wholesome material. Be conscious of what you’re consuming — not just the food you’re eating, but the articles you’re scrolling and the movies you’re binging. Do they heighten your sense of peace, or erode it?
At Christmas, here at Ivory & Deene we celebrate the birth of a special baby called Jesus. One of his many titles is Prince of Peace. He came so that, no matter what our lives look like, we can settle into the peace of his promises: of love, and hope of an eternity with him.
We wish you a merry and safe Christmas, and the deep, abiding peace that only Jesus can give.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)