De-Stressing the Holidays
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).
Friend to Friend
While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching a few select home improvement shows. Chip and Joanna Gaines are my two new best friends, and the Property Brothers simply rock! A new fixer-upper show caught my eye, so I checked it out. An interior decorator and homeowner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.
“First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced. I was surprised she listed this task first – until I saw the house. The existing glass was thick and chunky and an ugly shade of something in the neighborhood of mustard. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out. The result was a dark, isolated home. The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed.” When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way.
The holidays are just around the corner. For some people, that thought spurs exciting memories of beautifully decorated tables filled with scrumptious meals, festive shopping trips, extended family time, brightly wrapped gifts under a tree … the “Walton” kind of holiday. For others – especially those who deal with depression - the holiday season is a very difficult and dark time that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.
According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week, but during the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the "holiday blues,” and many more struggle with true depression. I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds, and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.
Depression is an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual disorder. Something is out of balance. We bury pain instead of confronting it. We misplace trust and seek help from impotent sources. We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain. The result is darkness, loneliness and missed opportunities for restoration. We don’t want to understand depression or find the treasures in that darkness; we simply want it to go away.
To deal with depression, we must first come to a place of complete surrender to God and to His plan of healing, even if we cannot see or understand that plan. God’s heart always longs for restoration.
Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level – refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships, and the broken places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too much to pay. Emotional integrity is an essential step to dealing with depression. We must be real - before we can be right. Until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.
The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place. And those emotional buttons we desperately try to hide are brutally exposed. The arrival of family members can resurrect painful issues that have never been resolved. Financial pressure opens up like a sinkhole waiting to devour our joy and destroy our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy and false expectations leave us empty and hollow. It is not supposed to be that way. Now is the time to do something about it!
Thanksgiving can be a time of praise… if we choose to focus on the victories and joys we have experienced during the year, and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others. Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings, if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life. The light of His love can swallow up the darkness.
Right now, get ready for the holidays by choosing an attitude of joy, by focusing your mind on the things of heaven – not earth, and by letting God’s peace guard your heart.
Father, I want this holiday season to one that is filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as with my family and friends. Give me the courage to be obedient to You in every holiday setting. Give me eyes to see and help those who are in need. Prepare and enable me to make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Take a few moments to re-visit the holiday season of last year.
- What was the best part of those holidays for you? Why?
- List three changes you would like to make this year.
- What is the first step you need to take to make those changes happen?
More from the Girlfriends
Do you dread the Christmas holidays? After a particular miserable holiday season, Mary Southerland went on a diligent search to find the secret of a joy-filled Christmas. The Secret of a Merry Christmas teaches you practical ways to de-stress your holidays.