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.
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.
It was Daylight Saving Time and my husband tried to change the time on our oven. He told me had had some trouble with it and I wasn’t worried. I’d changed it many times before. But when I tried to change the time, I noticed that I couldn’t do anything with the oven. It wasn’t working. There was some kind of strange error code. I tried flipping the breaker, but to no avail. It was time to call appliance repair.
The repairman arrived and glanced at the error code. “Oh, it’s in Sabbath mode,” he said.
“Yup. You just need to look up how to get it out of that mode in your manual.”
I couldn’t find the manual quickly, so Google explained that I just had to hold the clock button down to change it.
“That’ll be $75,” the repairman said. OK, so he wasn’t that rude, but that’s what it cost us to fix our oven. Ugh.
Why Do You Need a Sabbath Mode?
My husband kept thinking about the $75 bill, but I kept thinking about an oven mode that kept you from using the oven. Why would one need that?
I know that Jewish people observing the Sabbath aren’t allowed to cook. But why would you need to disable your oven? Couldn’t you just not bake?
A few weeks have passed since I asked myself these questions–a few weeks full of stress and busyness and what one of my Periscope viewers (catch the replay below) called “the creep.” In that time, I have felt exhausted, sick, and discouraged. Guess why.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working past 8 p.m.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working on Sundays
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working through lunch
The short answer to why I was starting to fall apart is that I hadn’t used my Sabbath mode.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong physically.
Lack of sleep and unscheduled time can lead to illness and exhaustion that can sideline us for weeks or months. Our bodies weren’t created for continuous operation. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God asked His people to rest, not because He needed them to, but because they needed to.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong emotionally.
I don’t know about you, but the most exhausting parts of my life are emotional, not physical strain. If I don’t have down time to process it, pray about, and talk about it, I will get testy. If it goes on long enough, I will get depressed. I love what Psalm 127:2 says about rest: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Rest is God’s gift to us.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong spiritually.
Exodus 20:11 says: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” When we work seven days a week, we can begin to believe that we are even more important than God. Even though I use my oven A LOT, life in our home wasn’t much different. We got to go out and I made meals that didn’t have to be baked. If you take a Sabbath rest, your family will survive, too.
When Are You Going to Go Into Sabbath Mode?
I determined that I need to turn my Sabbath mode on again at lunch time, after 8 p.m., and on Sundays. I asked not to be scheduled for tennis matches on Sundays unless I am really needed. I am going to tell my family to object if I try to keep working after 8 p.m.
Decide when your Sabbath will be and how you will keep your buttons from being pushed to keep working.
Need more? Catch the video where I discuss needing Sabbath and consider reading
I was praying using my Spiritual Circle Journal. I had told the Lord about my dissatisfaction with my appearance, my kids’ behavior, and the progress I had made (or really had not made) on the language arts curriculum I’m writing. I waited to hear the action steps He would give me for fixing these problems.
Instead, He said:
The real problem is you aren’t content. I think you wrote about that.
I was surprised by that answer. I found the series of blog posts I had written on contentment (you’ll find them at the bottom of this post) and was convicted. But I wanted more than what I had written. The Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of contentment, regardless of circumstances. But what was that secret? I was on a mission to discover it and I wanted to share it with you.
Why Contentment Matters
1 Timothy 6:6 says that godliness with contentment is great gain. It is an amazing blessing to be content and miserable to be discontent. Proverbs 19:23 tells us that when we rest content, we are untouched by trouble. That doesn’t mean that we won’t HAVE trouble. We know we will. Jesus says that’s a given. But Proverbs says that our trouble can’t have its way with us. We will be at peace despite our circumstances if we are content. If I’ve sold you on the value of contentment, read on.
The Secret of Contentment
1. Receive Christ
In Philippians 4:13, Paul tells us that he can do all things (including being content) through him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life, it will be difficult–if not impossible–for you to have contentment.
2. Surround Yourself With Contented People
In verse 14 of Philippians, Paul goes on to tell us that despite the power of God enabling him, he is comforted by the encouragement of other believers. If you spend most of your time with people who are never satisfied, how will you be content? But when you share your burdens with contented believers, they will remind you of the promises of God and your contentment will grow.
3. Focus on What You Know
In Psalm 131:1 the psalmist tells us that he doesn’t concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for him. We can become discontent when we want to know the answers to difficult questions like, “Why did God let this happen?” or worrying about the future. We KNOW that God is good and He loves us. Focusing on that truth gives us contentment.
4. Get Out of Situations That Make You Discontent
The psalmist continues in 131:2 to say he that he has calmed and quieted himself like a weaned child with its mother. As a mom, I know that when my baby is fussing, the best thing I can do for her is get her out of the situation. She needs to get away from the noise. I was watching a lot of home remodeling shows and found myself being discontent with my house. Suddenly, everything seemed so 80s! I have stopped watching those shows to quiet myself.
5. Fear the Lord
Truly the only thing we have to fear is God, because He is in control of our lives. Even if He permits something into our lives that we don’t want, we can be confident that He will give us His grace to endure. He will use it for our good and His glory. That truth fosters contentment. (See Proverbs 19:23)
6. Rejoice in Your Relationship with God
He is our portion, better and more satisfying than anything we are pining away for. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that this truth is what makes us content. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that continually rejoicing, praying, and thanking God is the antidote to discontentment. Our blessings can be like the bucket of popcorn at the movies that we mindlessly consume. The 5 Minute Journaling app has been helpful to me in focusing on my blessings. I have copied and pasted these contentment Scriptures to pray through on my Pocket Prayer app on my phone.
Do you have any other suggestions for fostering contentment in your life? Comment or tell me about them on Facebook.
A blogger who ministers to busy women asked me to write a guest post on over-commitment. When I got her email, I laughed out loud. I think God was trying to tell me something and He needed to be blunt.
The resulting post on the high cost of over-commitment ministered to me and I pray it will minister to you. While you’re visiting beautiful Daphne’s blog (I mean, she’s model beautiful!), please subscribe and be blessed by her beautiful spirit as well.
Do you spend more time singin’ in the rain or singin’ the blues when it comes to time?
We know we have the same 24 hours that everyone else does, but many of us aren’t content with our time. I know, because of the innumerable books, articles, and tools sold on the basis that they can give us more time.
Our discontent with time is obvious when:
- We procrastinate. We wish we had more time to do the things we enjoy, rather than those we don’t.
- We complain about how busy we are.
- We are annoyed by people who slow us down.
- We arrive late. We wanted more time to do something else.
- We cut our sleep time short. We wish we had more active hours each day.
- We multi-task, giving nothing our full attention.
- We live in fear of not getting everything done.
- We spend our time looking for ways to save time.
Discontentment with time has become socially acceptable, even among Christians. While there is wisdom in some time management and productivity teaching, we can use the information to feed our discontentment and find ourselves in a vicious cycle. The following parable came to me as I sought the Lord’s wisdom for my discontentment with time:
There was once a very competent woman who was hired by a brilliant man in a company that was destined for success. He took his time interviewing her so he could put her in a position that would make the best use of her abilities, but would also enable her to grow. He gave her a simple job description and invited her to come to him each morning to ask what he would like her to do. He also made it clear that he might call upon her unexpectedly as well, but that he would be sure to provide her with everything she needed to do a good job for him.
At first the woman was delighted with her boss. He was the nicest boss she could imagine having. He gave her meaningful work that made the days fly by and she felt great! But after she grew accustomed to the job, she figured it really wasn’t necessary to meet with him each morning. She pretty much knew what needed doing. In fact, she even recognized some things that needed doing that her boss hadn’t mentioned. She was quite excited about her new projects, but also surprised and even a little irritated when her boss interrupted them to give her work she wasn’t expecting.
At about the same time, she noticed that some of her co-workers could really use some training. They weren’t doing their jobs well at all. She meant to just train them, but before she knew it, she was doing some of her co-workers’ tasks, too. As a result, she had to keep longer hours. She stayed later and came in earlier. She even had to take work home! She lost sleep as she worried about how she would get it all done. Finally, she was so stressed that she decided to talk to her boss about the impossible workload he’d given her. Things were so bad and he hadn’t done anything to help her. Didn’t he care about her at all?
Our Awesome Boss
What’s missing from the analogy is that God isn’t just a boss, but the one who created us to do good works (see Ephesians 2:10). We don’t really know our loving God if we think He would give us more tasks than time to do them in. I feel so terrible for being the woman in the parable.
While I believe we are to be content with the time the Lord has given us, I also believe that God can supernaturally expand our time when necessary to do His work. I have had times when I was overbooked and stressed, but I met with my Boss and asked for help. Commitments I had suddenly disappeared or I felt like Wonder Woman doing things in hyper speed.
When we are discontent with our time, let’s meet every morning with our awesome Boss. Let’s ask Him what He would like us to do, what He would like us to let go of, and for the grace to accept the time we have as more than enough.
Have you ever been the woman in the parable? Has God ever supernaturally expanded your time, so you could finish the work He gave you?
The Secret to Learning Contentment