by Misty Umholtz

A few days before Thanksgiving, my stress level hit an all-time high. It starts with a sign from my body that says, “Warning, Warning,” (with an imaginary flashing red light), “Stop whatever you are doing and do not move forward.” I get a headache that starts in my shoulders, goes up my neck and sends shooting pain into my head. That always means something is wrong.

This time last year, I had an infant, a toddler, I was heading up a ministry called MOPS and we were traveling to California for Christmas. I foreknew the holidays could possibly cause me to go over the edge. I wanted to enjoy my kids and my favorite time of year so I made a few decisions that would eliminate extra stress points.  I decided not to bake anything, not to host anything, not to send out Christmas cards and to only buy the kids one gift each. And you know what? We had a peaceful holiday season full of treasured memories.

This year I am not pregnant, I am not nursing, I am not leading a ministry and we are not traveling. I thought,” This is great!”  My 3-year-old daughter is already talking about Christmas, so I figured this is the year to start all the things I really want to do. Let’s line up the service projects, the parties and the decorations! Let the festivities begin!

After the third day with a headache, I called one of my mentors to help me figure out why I was getting stressed this early in the season. I told her I was hosting Thanksgiving at my house and my parents were coming in from California but that did not seem to be what was bothering me. The more we talked, the more she helped me get to the bottom of my problem. My calendar was already full. We had five Christmas party invites awaiting responses and we had three Sunday dinners scheduled in a row of which we were hosting two of them at our house and I was responsible for making dishes that I had never made before! Not to mention our Saturdays were booking up as well.

Just thinking about our schedule was making this secret introvert anxious.  I started eliminating whatever I could to clear my calendar. That meant asking a friend to host a dinner, moving another dinner to a restaurant, saying no to some parties and telling people what food I feel comfortable making.

I am breathing with ease now and my headache has disappeared. I think every year I will decide ahead of time what I can and cannot do to make sure I get to enjoy my family through this blessed season. Who wants holiday memories full of a stressed-out mommy anyways?

Maybe living in peace through the holidays is as simple as eliminating the things that stress us out in the first place.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30a



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