Balancing Stress and Joy

by Alyssa Falkenstein

“It’s the holiday season,” as the old song goes, and what a season it is for moms! Whether you host holiday get togethers or pack up your household to attend them, the brunt of the holiday mental load tends to fall on mothers.

Grab the potatoes, cook a turkey, keep a running list of present ideas in your head, remember where you hid them after they were purchased, and remember to keep the holiday spirit alive for your kids.

Moms make holidays magical. We have an ability to make home and steward coziness in spite of a dark world. We create respite and safety! We are the architect behind the scenes of every favorite holiday memory our kids will treasure.

High stakes, and often, high stress.  Finances and patience both stretched thin, and so many people to worry about.

Maybe we worry too much about all of the above and lose hold of our own joy in the process. In saying yes to all the activities and commitments we may open the door to bitterness… Consumed by the to-do lists, wishlists, and guestlists, we set our eyes on the burdens we carry and lose sight of the One who is the very reason we celebrate. 

 How might we balance the stress of juggling all the must-do tasks, while still creating beauty for our families?


This holiday season could be life-changing if you are willing to lay down “busy” at the altar.

Measure what is most important. Your top three may be church service, family movie nights, and christmas baking. Schedule your month around your top three

Maybe you’ve served so much this year and need a break for your family. That’s okay too! Take a break and honor your family time with saying no to Christmas service practice. Go see Christmas lights and pour into your little ones.

Maybe your top three includes out of town family. This isn’t a burden because you’re so grateful to see them! So you plan your month around their visit.

Does a particular family gathering create more stress for your family than joy? It might be time to discuss letting go of a tradition.

In the joining of families there is often an uncomfortable transition as we let go of our extended family’s traditions and begin to make our own. Sometimes we need to say an uncomfortable “no” so we can say a new “yes” to our own memories with our children. 

Setting boundaries around the holidays, visiting family, and all the activities may be hard at first, but will be so worth it when some of the weight falls off your shoulders. You do not need to show up to it all sweet momma.

Nap times and bedtimes are so difficult to navigate with the holidays. Sometimes an event may be worth skipping nap or a late bedtime, but if the pros don’t outweigh the cons of losing sleep, you are allowed to say “we have to pass on that this year.”

A well rested little one will be much more fun than a cranky, overtired kiddo!

And what about you, momma? Do you make time for yourself during the holidays?

I know, I know. We can feel like last man on the totem pole when it comes to holiday needs. But you matter too, and your needs are worth taking up space.

See what you can take off your plate this holiday season, you don’t have to do it all. Delegate delegate delegate! What can your husband do for Thanksgiving prep? What can a family member bring? Can you pre-bake and freeze something?

Present shopping an overwhelming thought? Make it a date night! Dress up and have dinner together before you hit up Target and Costco to find this year’s treasures. Don’t have a significant other? Make it a girl’s night! Dine together and help each other shop. 

This season may have aspects we simply can’t escape, but we can still walk through it all clothed in joy. Make the most of whatever task you need to do… make it just a little extra special.

Find the dessert and infuse joy.

Recently a friend told me about finding a “dessert book.” This book isn’t about finances, parenting, health, business, or anything cerebral. A dessert book is just to cozy up with and find pleasure in.

I loved this idea! Outside of homeschooling, homesteading, or writing I haven’t read for me in quite a while. So I went to a bookstore and perused for my dessert book.

God is so gracious, He’s truly in every moment. He lead me right to the perfect book! A Christmas story I had forgotten from childhood, with themes of love and struggle and the Christmas spirit. It was on sale too! I was overjoyed at the prospect of settling in with a blanket and cocoa to crack it open.

Even if reading isn’t your thing, where can you find the dessert? Weekly candlit baths may be soothing, or maybe eggnog and a Hallmark movie is more your speed! 

Where can you infuse joy and delight in this season to keep your cup filled up as you continually pour out for everyone around you? Put twinkle lights in the kitchen to make dinner more magical, keep a special Christmas candle going… set yourself up success and operate from a place of jubilation this year!

Attitude of Gratitude

Throughout the month of November we may see people posting their 30 days of gratitude posts leading up to Thanksgiving. And afterwards we promptly see consumerism take over and that all disappears as people grapple for their Black Friday and Cyber Mondays deals. 

People flip us off in traffic, others yell and push in the crowds at the stores, and the Christmas grouchiness kicks in. “I hate this time of year” is heard over the cadence of frantic shopping.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” -John 13:35

What if this holiday season people saw Jesus because they encountered people marked by His love? We can show people we aren’t of this world by responding from a place of love and compassion as we encounter the frustration of traffic and empty shelves.

Someone griping at the cost of cranberries this year? Respond with thankfulness, maybe even buy those dinner items for them!

One time grocery shopping, completely overwhelmed by three kids and a tight budget, I witnessed a sweet, older lady shopping in the same aisle. “Oooo this is on sale! What a blessing!”

Instant conviction. When I operate from lack or complaint, it affects my spirit and it affects my kids too. I decided right then and there to change my heart posture, inspired by the kind lady who chatted with me.

When the world looks a bit too dark or discouraging, take a moment to pause. It’s easy to have a human reaction, but the atmosphere changes when we center ourselves with prayer first and invite Jesus into the situation.

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” -Colossians 3:15

Despite the seasonal stressors, we can still show up as the city on the hill. We get to show the world what heavenly peace and thankfulness looks like!

When rising prices threaten to steal your peace, meditate on the many verses about gratitude found in the Word. Being saturated in truth guards our hearts like nothing else. It’s easy to have a peace that doesn’t make sense when we’re rooted in scripture and not earthly “truth.”

Ultimately, we could trim all the fat and extras and design the most simple, “easy” holiday season, but if Jesus does not remain at the center it will be hollow and vapid.

The best stress relief is the presence of the Lord throughout every moment.

Get your dessert book, take your kids to see the Christmas lights, but maintain your heart of worship. Show your kids what Christmas looks like enraptured by the face of Jesus, and remind them of His truth throughout the season.

They will learn to carry stress by seeing their momma do it, and we can do it well, through His strength!

Dear Jesus, I lift up every mom reading this right now. I ask that you would mark this upcoming season for them as one of peace and joy. Help them rest in You and carry Your fruit with them as they plan, cook, and shop. Help them set the boundaries they need to set, give them the discernment for the things You want them to say yes to. Sustain them as they create memories for their families. I pray You would give them a double portion of Your grace and patience in a normally hectic season, and ask that even where they have to be busy, they feel You right alongside them as they go. Amen.

xoxo, Alyssa

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“Alyssa lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and children. She is a Hobbit at heart who loves gardening, baking bread, and a good book. She writes faith based encouragement and is currently working on her first novel!” Find her here on instagram