How can I reduce my holiday stress in this most joyful yet overly busy and chaotic season?
If you already live your life at 65-90 mph preseason, you don't have a bit of room in your schedule. Sadly, instead of experiencing the Peace and Joy of the holidays, we can be irritable, fatigued, and stressed, or worse yet, anxious and depressed. Pounds of sugar, gallons of coffee, and multiple glasses of “good cheer” come with the festivities. I think we can all see where this party machine is headed. It's a miracle if there isn't at least a meltdown or two.
THE REST OF GOD
Why don't we relax and let go? It seems there is a clash between the mind of the flesh and the constraint of the Spirit. Rest also means trusting God. Getting a good night's sleep is a cornerstone for establishing ourselves in the rest and peace of God, as well. God desires that we live from a place deep within where we remain always connected to God, a place the Bible calls the “hidden man of the heart” (1Peter 3:4). This part of us finds it easy to be thankful and rejoice. But what does it mean to "walk" in the Spirit? There has to be a practical application to take from the deep places of our devotional times out there into the busy, crazy moments of our schedule.
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Stressful times reveal a problem that is always at work within: Who's in charge? Am I being ruled by the Spirit of God or my carnal nature? If it’s the carnal nature, then chaos and frustration will increase. If the part of me that is connected to God dominates, then my flesh will be submissive.
WHAT CAN I DO?
We all have a resting place in God and it’s not reserved just for our quiet moments with Him. Rest is a weapon. It empowers us to have a mindset that can partner with the Holy Spirit. Mindsets that are not rooted in my identity in Christ fall by the wayside when the first customer jumps in front of me on line or takes the parking spot I've been patiently waiting for.
Is it impossible to learn something new during this season of frenzied activity? Are you desperate that this year will be different? I'd like to encourage us all to make some minor yet significant adjustments to each day.
A BETTER “TO DO” LIST
1. Submit each day's activities to the Lord. Some of the stuff on our lists may point to our own performance orientation, image management, activities the flesh has planned to keep itself in control of our spirit. Let God meddle with your schedule by asking His input, "Lord, please show me your wisdom about this day I have planned. I want to put You first, ahead of my schedule. Is there anything I can leave out, anything I can do another time, or delegate to someone else? I need Your Grace!!" Some of those good things on your list may rob from God’s best!
2. Stay spiritually disciplined during the season. Sometimes the first thing to go or be reduced is our time with God. That serves to weaken the hidden man of the heart (the place where we are always connected to God) and strengthen the flesh. The enemy may whisper, "You don't have time to pray and seek the Lord today." But the truth is we CANNOT afford not to refuel at the gracious refueling station available at His feet.
3. Take 2-3 minute rest breaks throughout the day. The busier you are, the more rest breaks you need. You can do it in the car or in the ladies room at work. Quiet yourself, do some deep breathing, focusing on a slow controlled exhale. (The breathing exercise I recommend with clients is this: sit back and relax, uncross arms, knees, and ankles. Inhale though your nose to the count of 4, hold for 1, and exhale slowly through your lips to the count of 7. Repeat at least 5 times. It will only take a minute!)
4. Rejoice and give thanks! That is the mindset of Heaven. The Joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8: 10). We need a new mindset if our old one is practicing negativity. Remember: the rest of God is a weapon. It empowers your spirit to rule over your soul. When I'm at rest within, I feel the Holy Spirit disabling those negative thoughts/patterns/habits.
Partnering with the Holy Spirit in our hearts maintains a renewed mind so we can live, dwell, and abide in the "secret place" God has created for us. Like all spiritual disciplines, it takes practice to develop the habit of remaining in His rest. When we walk in the rest of God that is already ours in Christ, the enemy's access to our emotions is restrained and attacks on our minds are restricted. We can see and hear the speculations and high and lofty things he's trying to hurl against our Peace...but they are DENIED. The benefits of rest are not to be underestimated!*
Matthew 11: 28-30 says Come unto me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will GIVE you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will FIND rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Enjoy your families and the sweet presence of Jesus available to you in this season! If you even practice the Rest of God only 5% more this year than last, you are an overcomer. Meanwhile, for more on the rest of God, look for Graham Cooke's message onThe Practice of Rest and the Indwelling Presence (from his Deeper Collection) at www.brilliantbookhouse.com.
*Paraphrased in part from Graham Cooke’s Deeper Collection.
Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website.
EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith. Click here to contact us.