Stay Happy and Stress Free This December and Every Day

photo from Flickr via Creative Commons from BK

Are you feeling the holiday stress yet? Gifts, decorating, baking, parties, and let’s not forget the ever-present Elf on the Shelf. It’s easy to get carried away with all these little things that can lead us to feel “less than” this time of year.

Even without those trappings, this is a difficult time of the year for a lot of people. Depression and stress will soar, just as our holiday spirit is meant to. We’ll be surrounded by people, but feel lonelier than ever.

I’ve always believed that suicide rates also rise this time of year, but while researching for this post, I found that’s actually not the case. According to the CDC, December has the least number of suicides for the year. The highest is spring and fall. Here’s another great article on suicide facts and myths.

But even if higher suicide rates aren’t a factor, and even if you don’t feel depressed, there is a lot more stress all around. If you spend more time pinning cookie recipes than baking or look for a thousand different ways to decorate your house, you might be feeling it. It seems like everyone else does it perfectly. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU FORGOT TO COME UP WITH SOME ELABORATE THING FOR THE ELF?! YOU HORRIBLE PARENT! (Psst. We don’t even do the elf thing!)


When the world seems to be focused on making things perfect, what are you focused on? If you’re stressed over gifts and parties and how to find or make the ugliest sweater, stop and ask yourself why.

Does it really matter if you win the ugly sweater contest? This year at the annual ugly sweater party, I decided to opt for the $5.50 silly t-shirt instead. And I quite like my Christmas kitty shirt, actually. Though I have an ugly sweater from the thrift store, I don’t like wearing it (too ugly and a bit too small), and even though the prize is a Kindle Fire that I’d love to own, it’s not worth the stress of coming up with ideas and making some elaborate shirt to beat out the others who go surprisingly all out for this event. I’d rather enjoy the party and the company of my fellow children’s ministry team members.


I think I gave up baking a long time ago. One year, I made 13 different kinds of cookies and gave a gift of mini-cheesecakes to my co-workers. While this may have worked when I didn’t have kids (even then, I had to take a few days off work to get it done), this won’t work for me now. So, guess what? I don’t do it! I plan on baking a batch for the aforementioned ugly sweater party because we have to bring something, but I totally got a box mix. I’ll bake actual cookies for my writer’s group meeting, partially because I have an amazing Jello pastel cookie recipe that I’m craving and partly because it’s on Saturday and I can bake them that morning (plus I really love my writer friends).

I decorate, but not like I used to. The kid and I did our tree (as seen in video), and we put up some of the snowmen and holly and the nativity around the house. I used to do lots of lighting outside and, while I’d love to because I love the look, no one else in my house cares that much, so I end up doing it alone. Every year I did less and less until one year, I had no strings of lights that weren’t half burned out and I gave up. Now we just go to one of those awesomely huge light displays and get our fill.


I do try to find the best gifts, but I don’t stress. If I can’t come up with something amazing, I go for practical. This year, I got my brother something strange and fun that came out of a conversation we had (more on that later!), but there are some people who I find it hard to shop for. I’m a fan of gift cards because then the person can get whatever they really want or put it towards something more expensive (and some people—like me—enjoy the added benefit of the shopping experience). Sometimes, the best thing is just cash. I do most of my shopping online to avoid the crowds, and I start early in the year to avoid the pile up and monetary freak out. Oh, and we don’t go overboard with spending money, either.

So, the point I’m getting at is, pick what you do. No one can do it all (unless you don’t want to sleep in December). Do that which brings you joy and means something to your family. Let the rest go. Take time to enjoy life and the good qualities of the season (like peppermint mochas from Starbucks, the city being full of decorations, and my very favorite—candlelight Christmas Eve service at church).

I’m trying something new this year. I found this web site a while back and I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time now. I finally started on December 1. It’s called 365grateful. The idea is to capture things you’re thankful for and share them. It’s meant to keep you focused on what matters and to inspire others to appreciate the wonder of the world.

And besides that, it actually makes you happier. It’s even been like, proven by science and stuff. Here’s a cool video about it:

I’ve found this to be true in the past. I heard Joyce Meyer talk about it one time and took the idea from her to thank God throughout the day for every little thing you have. Down to the smallest detail, like, hey, thanks that I can see to type this and I can read and I have a computer and electricity. Because a lot of people don’t. It’s amazing how powerful this stuff is. So, give it a try.

I made video decorating my Christmas tree with the kid and talking about all this:

Join me in using the #365grateful hashtag on social media to share what we’re grateful for, or just go about your day thinking on those things. Let’s put it to the test during the busiest month of the year (unless you’re an accountant, then this is only the 2nd busiest), and see what a difference it makes in the face of the most stressful—err, WONDERFUL—time of the year.

See all the photos here.

What do you do to keep the stress down in December?

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