It is sunny and 54 degrees here in Chicago today, which is lovely. Except that it really doesn’t feel like December, and it’s making me deny reality: Christmas is a little over three weeks away, and I am way behind on getting gifts, decorating, and even on wrapping my brain around what I need to get done.

How are you doing with your Christmas prep? Are you feeling some stress about the holidays? If so, here’s a quick reminder: three things you can do to reduce holiday stress.

  • Choose your yes and no thoughtfully. We’re conditioned to say “yes” because we think it’s nicer or more generous or maybe more “Christian.” But here’s the thing: every yes is a no. When you say yes to doing one thing, you’ve automatically said no to any number of other things. So yes is not “nicer” or “better”–it’s simply a choice to say no to other things. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and say yes to the things that bring you joy. Let other things go. Take your time, slow down before you say yes. By saying no to things that are non-essential, you’re free to say yes to what matters.
  • Consider giving “experiences” rather than gifts. My kids have told me that they’d rather have me fund an experience than buy them more stuff. Who else might agree with that idea? Do any of us really need another sweater or Christmas candle? One of our gifts to our daughter and son-in-law was taking them to a professional football game. We made memories and had a great time.
  • Take time for self-care. The first step to that? Slow down. The holiday season can be stressful. What are you doing to take care of yourself? Are you getting adequate rest? Can I suggest: taking just a few minutes a day to focus on things that really matter? And a great tool for that: my free ebook, The Gift of Christmas Present. Below you’ll find an excerpt to give you a taste of what’s in this little book.

You can download a free ebook version in the box to the right on this page. Here’s a bit of the introduction:

Why does Christmas become a competition? What is it that we are trying to “win”? What is it that we are really seeking? Maybe: significance.

Which is not a bad thing to want. You were created for significance—in fact, you’re deeply loved and you already have significance. How much time do you spend seeking what you already have? You already have it—even if you don’t feel or recognize it yet. You don’t need to seek significance in things that cannot actually give it: accomplishments, busyness, stuff.

Our desire for significance might be fueling our crazy plans for cookies, decorating, gifts, parties. We want that cozy holiday feeling, we want to know that we created that wonderful moment, that amazing memory, that magical Christmas morning–and we make ourselves and everyone around us crazy trying to achieve it. But, instead of cozy, we feel pressure. Instead of joy, we feel stress.

A lot of this is about our need to be okay, or even, amazing. The truth is, we want to win. We want to win Christmas. After last year, when many of us had to forgo gathering, there’s a pressure to make this year better than ever.

How can we regain our sanity? Well, I can’t promise you complete calm during the holiday season, but I do want to give you a gift: the gift of Christmas present. It’s actually a gift I want to guide you toward giving to yourself.

This devotional can help you to pause, for just five minutes a day, to slow down, to dial in to what you most want: a meaningful Christmas season. And that five minutes can help recalibrate and reconnect you to the four themes of Advent: hope, peace, love, and joy. It will give you some quiet thoughts to hang on to during your day, to help you to slow down and be fully present.