While "dashing through the snow" could be written today as "speeding down the freeway to the mall," both statements sound stressful to me.

With the arrival of the holidays, many of us experience an odd mixture of excitement and dread as we prepare to celebrate the season.

We get excited about the lights, shopping and Christmas dinner with family, but we also fear the stress that past holidays have taught us to expect. From previous family misunderstandings and hurt feelings to scheduling conflicts, tight finances and the wear and tear on the body, holidays have a way of taking their toll on us.

I have found that the best way to lessen the stress of the holidays is to be prepared:

1. Recognise stress triggers ahead of time, and plan to minimise their impact. For example: Realise that you will get several invitations to holiday parties, events or service opportunities, and limit the number of events you will commit to before the invitations come.

2. Create a holiday budget together. Commit to sticking to the budget no matter how great the sales are!

3. Try to resolve extended family issues before holiday gatherings, if possible. Sit down and discuss the problems rather than ignore them.

4. Commit to dealing with spousal conflict after the emotion has died down: "Honey, we are both tired. Let’s not try to solve this now. Let’s talk in the morning over coffee." Use common sense, and be disciplined enough to handle conflict in the right way.

5. Schedule time for each other. Go to bed at a decent hour. Exercise or take a walk together. Protect your "together" time.

Most of all, remember what this time of year is all about: "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people . . . a savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11, NIV).

That is a great reason to slow down, be thankful and be at peace this Christmas season. As you prepare for your upcoming activities, we hope that the following series of articles will help you stress less and enjoy that peace more fully.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Focus On The Family

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