How to beat the stress of the holiday season

Do you love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, or do you find this season to be one of stress and exorbitant spending? If you find yourself dreading the build-up to Christmas, you’re not alone. In 2012, a survey revealed that  45% of Americans found Christmas shopping so stressful that they would prefer to skip Christmas altogether.

Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ discussed our tendency to get swept up in the material aspects of the season, and how we can avoid the stress in order to truly enter into Advent and Christmas this year. He said:

“These are blessed times. These are such important, special times that if we’re not preparing for them then we start to look at them differently, and we get swept up and carried away the way so many people in our culture do.

I hear about it in Confession during Advent and the Christmas shopping season – I hear a lot of stress, I hear a lot of troubles that people have. Self-imposed very often, it’s not other people putting those expectations on them, it’s us deciding how we’re going to live out Christmas.

I think, fundamentally, if we bring all this together – the money that’s being spent, the stress that gets involved in people’s lives, and people wanting to ‘skip Christmas’ – that’s when we know that something is amiss in our culture, and something is wrong with how we are observing the holiday season.

This is why I want to bring this up now, even before Advent officially begins, when you’re just pulling out the dusty boxes from the attic with Christmas lights and ornaments. We have to start thinking about it because we have to remind ourselves every single day what these seasons are about. And what our lives are all about in relation to Christ.

We have this need, you and I, to celebrate Christmas. We can’t miss it. We can’t miss Mass, we can’t miss acknowledging the blessings we’ve had. Sure, cut down on the spending. No problem. That’s not skipping Christmas, that’s getting back to the original meaning of what Advent and Christmas are all about – preparation. And recognizing that Christ is born for you and for me.

That’s why, even before Advent begins, I want you to set your sights on the goal – which is Jesus, and being in relationship with Him. We just celebrated the feast of Christ the King, and maybe you had a challenging homily, making you wonder if Jesus is the ruler, the king, of your own life.

Does Jesus reign in your family, in your prayer life, and in your financial decisions? Is Jesus the one in charge, or are you getting distracted by the world? Distracted by your finances and taking your eyes off the ball?

These holiday seasons are going to be more stressful than we ever imagined, because we’re forgetting what they’re for.  That’s why I’m bringing it up now, so you can avoid all the stress that you usually feel is a natural part of these seasons. You think you’re predestined to experience all of this trouble and stress and difficult times. That’s not true.

So much of that is self-imposed. So much of that is pushed on us by the culture. Maybe it’s time to push back. Or at least it may be time for us to not even be influenced by that kind of pressure, and instead look to Jesus  – our King who will be born for us in a few short weeks, and who wants us to be ready, and to use this coming Advent well so that we can truly rejoice with His birth.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

St. Joseph’s Workshop with Fr. Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.