Ah, Christmas…. I have beautiful visions of how we will all be in church, angels will sing, my kids will behave perfectly….yeah, right. My family thinks that they wake up magically on Christmas morning and everything is done. You know, Santa and the elves did it all. They even bought the groceries and cleaned the house, well, not so much. By the time Christmas rolls around I am usually exhausted and stressed to the max!

This time of year is a good time to remind ourselves of effective stress-busting strategies.

1. What does the Lord say about stress? Scripture tells us, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” Phil. 4:6 “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7 “Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body.” Eccl. 11:10

2. Action helps overcome stress. When I studied the lives of saints, a common thread became apparent to me. The saints put their stress to work for them. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton started a school after losing her husband and daughter. St. Catherine Laboure devoted herself to care of the elderly in hospice after she suffered the ridicule of her superiors.

I developed an acronym to help me remember to do the same:

Assess: Look at what is stressing me out. Perhaps keeping a journal of when I am most stressed and why would help.

Confess: Is my stress causing me to fall into sin? Am I standing in my own way to God’s grace?

Transcend: Overcome the stress by focusing on the Sacraments, working on virtues and getting into action (either directly by trying to solve the problem or indirectly by service to others).

For me, dealing with Christmas stress means trying to get to daily Mass and Confession a little more frequently and making a calendar to handle all the tasks I need to get done. It is not the work that overwhelms me, it is worrying that I won’t get it all done. If I know I have a plan I can relax and enjoy the season a little more. Ya know, they really do look cute all lined up at church and behaving (well sort of). God bless.