In a year that has been anything but normal, I’m finding it difficult to focus on the upcoming holidays. How about you? Does the thought of Christmas coming bring you joy or fear? Let us talk about how to make Christmas a season of joy.

Years ago, the Christmas theme at CCC was “Simply Christmas,” and I remember it being refreshing. There was less chaos, less commitments, and more focus on what really matters. This year, with all the unknown, conflict, and fear, I am thinking about simplifying again. What would that look like? I will break it down into two parts: home and heart.

As a nation, we have been in our homes this year more than ever before. Many have taken comfort in this while others have found it to be difficult. This month let us think about how to make home a safe place. Think about your holiday planning using these three words: simple, meaningful, and intentional.
One way to simplify the holidays is to talk about your family’s best or favorite traditions. Perhaps pick one each or just a few that you can focus on as a family. Consider now as a chance to try something new. If it does not work, you can blame it on COVID-19! What are things you can do that require less preparation but are more meaningful? The secret is to be intentional. You control it instead of it controlling you. Create a home that is safe, warm, and comfortable. Put off or eliminate anything that makes you feel dread. What are things I dread? Cutout sugar cookies. They never turn out like the pictures. And sometimes – Christmas cards. This year one of these may go. I want to eliminate the busyness so I can be present, put down distracting devices, and play more.
As we gather this season, choose to be thankful. Be thankful for each person you have around your table. Be thankful for those who have served and helped you this year: doctors, nurses, teachers, and first responders.

During times of uncertainty and stress, it is more important to take care of our own health. Three aspects to consider are physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Physically, be intentional to care for yourself. Eating healthy meals, hydrating, exercising, and even a brisk walk can help to relieve stress. The holidays are naturally a time when emotions run high. Grief is palpable. Depression and anxiety may increase. Recognize that this year has made us more sensitive to these emotional upswings. What would have been easy to deal with may be more challenging now. It is good to normalize the uncertainty of these times and recognize how that influences us emotionally. Practice being mindful. Stay present by taking one day at a time. Be aware that sometimes dwelling on the past can bring on depression and worrying about the future can trigger anxieties.
Christmas is a wonderful time to be mindful of our spiritual life. Set aside quiet time, clear your mind of the “to do’s,” enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and a quiet space. Find an advent devotional. Christ Community Chapel and YouVersion have apps with resources to help focus on Christ in a meaningful way.

Simply Christmas starts with being intentional by limiting your plans and choices, by creating a peaceful home to be one that celebrates each other and is kind, and by remembering what is important.

Karen H. Coffey, M.Ed., LPCC-S

Karen is a licensed professional clinical counselor, but her favorite roles are wife, mom, and grandma.