Susanne Says - Anxious Anyone? How to Alleviate Stress This Christmas Season


Part 1 of a Series on Anxiety

This month I'm starting a series on anxiety that will continue for the next few months. You may be asking, “Why talk about anxiety during this most beloved time of year?” 

The Perils of the Christmas Season

The most joyous season of the year is upon us and, although it's cold and dark outside, there is a promise of warmth from glowing fireplaces, twinkling lights, amazing aromas, and some of the best food offered in the entire calendar year! Yet we know this season among all seasons can be the most stressful of all. Why is that?

The month of December arrives with an avalanche of expectations to make the holidays perfectthat are quite unrealistic. Many of us:

  • Spend money we don't have

  • Schedule events we don't truly have time for

  • Say yes to a multitude of commitments and make ourselves tired, worn out, and generally cranky.  

What do the kids remember of Christmases spent with their overbooked, irritable parents? It's a good practice to ask your kids what their best memories of the Christmas season are. You may be surprised to discover it wasn't a major holiday event but a time of playing games at the kitchen table or by the fireplace.

While Christmas is definitely the most wonderful time of the year, sadly, it's also a very anxious time of year.

Some of our sisters admit they're in competition with themselves or their neighbors to decorate their homes to be Christmas wonderlands, make every type of holiday goodie imaginable, and manage to invite or be invited to as many gatherings as possible. It can make a girl tense just thinking about it. Not to mention the shopping, wrapping, and exchanging of gifts that characterize this special season of the year. No pressure!  

The Promise of Christmas

Our Christmas cards announce the birth of our Messiah! Isaiah 9:6 is a well-beloved verse that is often repeated in our annual greeting cards. It says:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace! Peace is a person! Christmas is meant to be a time where we celebrate the birth of Christ, remember the Peace and Joy heralded by our Bibles and Christmas cards, and spend meaningful time with family and friends. How can we make that happen? We can commit to a warm wonderful cup of joe or tea or cider with a friend each week. We can say no to at least one event per week to stay home and do nothing!  Just enjoy the warmth of your home and your Christmas decor. 

What’s Your Speed Limit?

If you live your life at 90 miles per hour normally, when Christmas comes along you may find yourself speeding along not so merrily at 120-150 mph. One of the causes of anxiety that will be discussed in this series is the modern-day phenomenon called "hurry sickness."  This is defined as always being in a rush, feeling exasperated by any delays, and having routines without a moment of downtime figured in or even permitted! These types of schedules run riot with our physical and mental health (and our relationships) and are known to be contributing factors to such conditions as diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and much, much more.  

Are You up for a Christmas Challenge? << Click to Tweet

Throughout this busy season, don't forget your devotionals and spiritual disciplines. We need these things most when we get too busy and are tempted to ditch our Bible time for one more activity or errand. Remember there will always be many good things to choose from but the good frequently robs from the best...and the very best is God's best. 

Even just a few minutes each day can keep you connected to God and bring you peace. Ask for His Grace to take five-minute "glory breaks" a couple of times per day. (Taking one five-minute break would be a great start!) Just sit down wherever you can...the car and the ladies room suffice as a temporary glory zone if that's the best you can do. Do some deep breathing, listen to a worship song, and talk to the Lord. You know He's right there, tenderhearted and affectionate. He doesn't chide us when we come to Him. He welcomes us with open arms. He would love to enjoy a few minutes with you. After all, it IS His birthday we're celebrating!  

Matthew 11:28-30 talks about the rest of God and how it is always available for the heart that comes to Him. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Enjoy this joyful, warm, and wonderful time of year with those you love, but please try to be mindful of all the additional activities you're putting on your holiday plate.

My heartfelt wishes to all of you for a Blessed and Joyous Christmas!  


The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

 Voskamp says she "...doesn't want a Christmas you can buy...make...or hold. A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me. I want a Christmas that whispers Jesus."

Note: I'll be back in January to share more of this series when I'll be discussing four types of anxiety: everyday life's stressors, hurry sickness, major life disruptions, and clinical types of anxiety. Also up for discussion will be the distinction between fear, anxiety, and stress. 

Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website. 

EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith.Click here to contact us.

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