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5 Tips to Turn Holiday Stress Into Peace and Joy

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During the holiday time from Thanksgiving to New Year's, we tend to experience more activities, responsibilities and the corresponding stresses than usual. We can easily wear ourselves out with the stress, or we can discover the peace that the season offers. Peace comes from creating balance between activity and rest, socializing and meditation, or making changes and keeping things the same. The story of the first Holy Night reminds of how we turn stress into peace and joy.

"Silent Night Holy Night" is the contrast to long hard travels, difficult negotiations, and child labor. The song expresses the quiet balance to the hardship of the journey on a donkey across the dry rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the strain of full pregnancy, and the desperate struggle to find shelter. Prior to the silent night was a period of bustling stressful days. Joseph's stress augmented when he received the instruction to make a trip at the most inconvenient time with a pregnant wife and no lodging arrangements. Difficulties increase as his negotiations for living quarters with relatives had failed. Then his wife goes into labor. He is desperate to find some place to allow his beloved to birth the child (which is not one he sired). The ever-mounting difficulties that Joseph experienced could seem like an impossible situation. Yet, Joseph persevered to knock on door after door. Finally, one compassionate homeowner with nothing to give devised an unusual solution to offer the shelter of his livestock. Moving animals to claim a place in the cave-like stable, Joseph made a space for Mary to birth the little baby to be named Jesus. Mary, having never experience childbirth before, most likely felt scared of what was happening in her body. Stronger pains than she had ever felt before gripped her muscles. Not a nerve was silent as nature took over to put the little being that had been growing inside her forth into the world. Repeated cramps and quivers with pressure pushing the head, shoulders, and finally the body and legs of the precious little being out from her womb. Being innovative, Joseph created a clean receptacle for the new life to lay in. Bundled in his mother's shawl, and held to suckle at his exhausted mother's breast, the little one's crying converted into eventual slumber. At last, among the smell of sheep and cows, and resting on a hard earth floor the couple and their son had a silent night. Without knowing how they managed, they survived. With gratitude, they rested in the warmth of peace and joy.

"Silent Night Holy Night" is a picture of peace. Peace can be the balance of hard work and rest, impracticality and perseverance, or stress and recovery. Peace is balance.

Here are 5 tips for moving into peace:

1) Accept your situation -- realize what you have to do and do it no matter how impossible it seems. Just like Joseph and Mary had their plans interrupted by a state mandate to make an untimely journey to Bethlehem. They survived and you will, too.

2) Take one step at a time. Focus on one task at a time in the terrain that you need to go over (buy presents, wrap presents, prepare or attend parties, get your project complete, consolidate your finances before the end of the year, etc. -- all on top of your normal responsibilities). December tends to be a month of more activities and tasks than normal, which is all the more reason to focus on small accomplishments as a means of balancing out the big to-do list.

3) Let go of control and be innovative. Holiday time tends to be one where people are bumping up against each other with their different expectations. "The house is full" in each person's life, so that the usual assistance and flexibility is simply not available. You may not be able to get what you want, yet open your mind to new ways of getting your needs met. You may discover that you have more abilities than you had imagined.

4) Accept natural law that directs your body. Simply put, your body functions according to principles of physics and physiology. It reacts to the amount and quality of food, rest, exercises and pleasure that you provide it with. Keep the balance of caring for your personal being while you are placing more demands on your body. Schedule "me-time"(or take the wrong bus, like I did, turning my 15-minute ride home into 1 hour and 15 minutes. The beautiful landscape under a full moon reminded me that I needed time to simply enjoy life -- balancing out overwork).

5) Appreciate life regardless of your situation. The difficult situation in the most uncomfortable space that Joseph, Mary and new baby found themselves in became an honored nativity scene replicated around the world as a reminder of peace, hope and the joy of life.

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