Christmas—the song tells us—is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But, let’s face it, for many of us it’s not.
It’s not always a perfectly joyous time. It doesn’t always feel wonderful. Instead, for some, it can be a time of great stress and emotional pain. That stress can come from the busyness of the season, finances, unrealistic expectations, spending time with family and friends (who may be the source of our pain), or the death of a loved one, just to name a few.
This time of year, I sincerely desire to slow down — in an effort to prepare Him room — but I find it more and more difficult to do that. How do I make room for Jesus, especially when my heart is a mess, when I have emotional pain that I have not faced?
For me, because I tend to overcommit myself, one of my stressors is busyness. I must intentionally look at my motivation for what I choose to do. I have to realize that saying yes to something also means I’m saying no to something else.
But if I’m honest, my biggest struggle during this time of year is unrealistic expectations… maybe you can identify with me.
I think each of us needs to know who we are and how God wired us so we can understand why we act and react the way we do. Restoring Your Heart has helped me to do that. Ultimately, as followers of Christ, we want to think, feel, and act like Jesus. But our trauma, our unprocessed pain, can prevent that. Instead, we can get stuck in a spiral of believing lies, acting and reacting in self-protecting ways, but ultimately not getting our needs met.
One of the greatest benefits for me in going through RYH has simply been getting to know myself and learning to be okay with myself. I grew up thinking I had to be perfect. I learned how to pretend to be okay, even if I wasn’t.
As I have come to accept the reality that I am less than perfect, I have come to understand that I have needs (for value, acceptance, security, connection) and that it is okay to have needs. Denying that I have needs doesn’t negate them, it only sabotages any efforts to get those needs met…
I have also come to realize that not everyone in my life is safe and able to meet my needs at that particular time. For instance, I have a great need for connection, but if I know I’m going to be spending time with someone who is not able to meet that need for me–either they can’t or they won’t—then I need to accept this and find another healthy way to get my need met. When I do that, I can release that person, my need is met, and I no longer place the unrealistic expectation upon them.
I think that’s one of the greatest insights that I’ve learned through RYH. There’s freedom when I can release another person from meeting my need, but it’s also giving them grace by accepting the fact that right now, in this moment, they are not able to. I’m learning more and more to lean on the Lord to be my source.
That’s self-care…. knowing myself, my needs, and how to get those needs met in healthy ways.
My friend recently told me that she has a daily alarm set on her phone, a reminder that asks, “What are you doing right now to take care of yourself?”
I love that and am implementing that practice in my own life. What would that look like for you? Maybe it means taking a moment to listen to a song or read scripture. Maybe it means reaching out to a safe friend for an encouraging conversation. Perhaps it’s going to the Lord in prayer or practicing gratitude. Maybe it’s going outside and being in nature or doing something physical. There are many ways to take care of yourself—but it takes awareness and intentionality.
So how can we find peace and joy in the midst of stressful times? I believe we can do that by knowing ourselves, how to get our needs met, and practicing self-care along the way. It also takes a lot of dependence upon the Lord and a whole lot of grace (both accepting the grace given to us and extending grace to others).
It is my hope and prayer that during this “most wonderful” time of year, we can all find that and slow down enough to embrace the true meaning of celebrating Christmas.