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You’re busy. You’re dealing with lots of people. You’re stressed this Christmas season. Stress can lead us to make some mistakes that will make things worse. Avoid these six mistakes and you’re likely to have a merry Christmas.

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Christmas stress mistakes you don't want to make; homeschooling

Mistake #1: Not planning a homeschool break

What we typically do is get busy with other things this time of year. There is more shopping and cooking and even chatting going on. After all, it’s Christmas! Somehow in the midst of all the extra activity, we end up not doing school. But it isn’t a planned break. We just sleep in, do some Christmas shopping, or watch Christmas movies instead of homeschooling. We aren’t doing a Christmas unit study. That’s different. We find ourselves falling into a Christmas break. The result is we feel guilty. We really wanted to get a lot done before Christmas. But we didn’t. And we don’t feel refreshed like we should from a planned break. Instead of falling into a Christmas break this year, decide whether you really are going to do a Christmas unit study. Plan what to do. If you don’t have time to plan, try the Christmas Traditions or Christmas Around the World online unit studies from Techie Homeschool Mom. They’re done for you.

If you don’t want to do a Christmas unit study, plan when you are going to take a break and for how long. If you feel behind on your regular studies, decide what you want to accomplish before Christmas. Make a realistic list for yourself and your children. Give your children the option of finishing early if they finish their work early or you finish your family work early. This is the process I used to create the most motivating homeschool planner ever.

Mistake #2: Changing your sleep schedule

Changing your sleep schedule may be one of the things you look forward to at Christmas time. You can stay up late watching movies and can sleep in. A few nights of this is okay, but erratic sleep schedules will wreak havoc on you and the kids. I recently read that our melatonin levels go down after 10 p.m. This means that it will be harder for us to fall asleep later at night. Adequate, consistent sleep provides a number of benefits. It helps to control weight, maintains a positive mood, increases focus, strengthens immunity, and helps control stress. No matter how busy you are, you will benefit from sticking to your regular bed and awakening time as closely as you can. If you have to stay up late for a Christmas party, for example, sleep in if you can. If you can’t because your kids will be up early, get up at the same time as usual. Then do your best to take a nap during the day. This advice is good for your children, too. We took a family vacation over Christmas break when my youngest was three. He did not get his nap and had night terrors as a result. He woke up screaming and could not be consoled. It’s a great example of what lack of sleep does to all of us internally.

Mistake #3: Skipping personal devotion time

When we go to bed late, we tend to get up late. If you have your time with the Lord in the morning as I do, you’ll miss it. Then you will struggle to have that time with God later in the day. Not having a quiet time of prayer, Bible reading, and meditation is a real problem when you are stressed, because that’s when you need it most. In fact, having that time with God during the Christmas season is likely to prevent stress in the first place. What’s more, if you continually skip your time with God this season, you will find yourself looking back on Christmas and feeling as though you missed the most important part. If in the midst of Christmas stress, you find yourself missing your time with God, make plans to correct that immediately. In addition, don’t limit yourself to your planned times with God. When you find yourself feeling frazzled or annoyed, take a few minutes to sit down in the presence of the Lord. One of my favorite things to do in those instances, is to write out what I’m feeling. Go to God with your stresses and worries and concerns and write them down. Pray and ask God what He has to say to you about these things. He may give you an idea or a Scripture or just a sense of peace that you did not have before.

Mistake #4: Not getting exercise

Another common habit we skip when we are under stress is exercise. That’s unfortunate because exercise helps to control the physical and emotional side effects of stress. For example, our immunity suffers when we are stressed. One of the benefits of exercise is that it raises our body temperature, helping to kill viruses and bacteria like a fever does. Over the Christmas season, we may have erratic sleep schedules, eat differently, and will spend time with large groups of people who may have a variety of germs. Giving up our exercise is not wise in these conditions. Exercise is also proven to relieve depression and anxiety. Christmas is the season we need exercise more than ever. If you don’t currently exercise, now is the perfect time to start. Check out 6 Short Workouts You Can Do at Home.¬†Exercise doesn’t have to take an hour to be effective.

Mistake #5 Dropping other routines

There are other aspects of our routine besides sleep, devotions, and exercise. Because we’re stressed at this time of year, we can be temped to let them go. But not doing laundry, regular picking up, and meal planning will make life even more stressful. A cluttered environment adds to the feeling of being out of control. No meal plan will lead to irritability and an extra expense at this costly time of year. Not taking a few minutes to put laundry away and do dishes will cost you more time. It’s a lie that we will have more time to do these routine things later. Instead of dropping your routines when you’re stressed, maintain your habits. Use this time to start new ones. Set the timer and do a whole house pick up together for 15 minutes. Then do it again the next day. This is the time to be even more careful to schedule your days. You’ll accomplish what you hope to in your homeschooling, your home, and other responsibilities and you’ll still have time to enjoy special Christmas activities.

Mistake #6 Skipping your favorite parts of the season

When we are stressed, we immediately consider ways of saving time and cutting corners. That’s a good thing unless we consider eliminating things that are the highlight of our Christmas. If you don’t love making everyone’s favorite appetizer, pick something up instead. But if making Christmas cookies is a treasured tradition, make sure you do it — even though you’re stressed. The disappointment of having a busy, but unsatisfying Christmas just isn’t worth it. What if you don’t know how you can still do your favorite activities? Pray about it. The Lord will show you if there is something you think is non-negotiable but could be dropped. He may show you a way to multi-task. Need to have lunch with a friend and get Christmas shopping done? Do both together. Be willing to talk to people you love about your predicament. Will they really be disappointed if you don’t do something this year? They’ll let you know. You can include your favorite parts of the season even though you’re busy by asking for help. I used to be exhausted trying to wrap dozens of gifts. Then I switched to purchasing three gifts for my family members. You can find the link to my idea list for this in the show notes. And I asked my family members to help wrap. They love wrapping! And we spend time together while we do it. Being with my family just happens to be one of favorite parts of the season.

Which of these mistakes has caused you the most problems in previous years? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.