holiday blues

Holiday Blues: Beating the Holiday Blues

By | Resources

Holidays can be a time of delight for most people after a long year of hard work. It's not entirely clear when the festive season starts though. Traditionally, most would agree that Thanksgiving is a decisive marker of the start of the holiday season. But every year, in a phenomenon, unfortunately, named the Christmas Creep, the holiday decorations seem to come out earlier each year. No doubt there is a commercial motive behind this; regardless, it serves as a reminder for most of us that we are in the final stretch of the year, a year riddled with challenges that may have had us doubting if we would succeed and yet, here we are.

Most people look forward to reuniting with family, reconnecting with old friends perhaps, and maybe live through a few awkward dinners. But there's a significant section of us for which the thought of the holidays induces feelings of anxiety, loneliness, stress, and even dread.

What are the “Holiday Blues”?

Most functional adults have a life with predictable routines. They wake up at a certain time every weekday, perhaps eat at a favorite restaurant every other Saturday and stay out for a little bit – but not too late as to miss church on Sunday, and then on Monday, it's back to work. Different groups of people have different perspectives on this routine lifestyle. The holiday blues can happen to anyone, anywhere.

For some, particularly those with life partners that are supporting a family, going to work is just a means to ensure that their family is catered to and provided for. On the other side of the spectrum, particularly in cities and in metropolises, loneliness and isolation have become both endemic, in the sense that they affect a certain demographic in specific urban areas; and pandemic, since these issues are wide-spread across cities and states on all continents.

Who is most affected by the holiday blues?

Mostly young professionals who have recently moved out of their parents' houses, and middle-aged individuals who have either spent most of their lives alone or who've lost significant others and/or children, rely on peers and colleagues to be social tethers keeping them from completely isolating themselves socially. When the holidays come around, that regular routine is disrupted. Friends and colleagues go off on holiday to visit their families. If these individuals, even the most well adjusted ones, are without the means to travel to family, or without close family to travel to, then each reminder of the approaching festive season is a reminder that a period of disruption and loneliness is approaching. Holiday blues are the uneasy feelings of loneliness, stress, and anxiety which develop around certain holidays.

Holiday stress may also be caused by the financial burden which the season places on individuals. For starters, there are expectations of certain activities during this season, regardless of background, level of income and culture you come from. Over Christmas holidays, for example, some expect gifts, others expect to travel, and others expect parties or gatherings. Certain employers understand this period results in significant financial issues and allow for a bonus to be paid out. However, this is not always the case and the pressure these financial burdens create can be significant enough for a person to dread this time of year. What adds on to this pressure is the conspicuous consumption of peers.

While holiday blues may be unavoidable for some, there are methods to manage this condition and ways to minimize negative outcomes.

How You Can Beat the Holiday Blues

As mentioned, there are many reasons why you might feel sad around the holidays, such as:

  • Loneliness
  • Loss
  • Thoughts of past holidays
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Finances

Regardless of why you’re not quite feeling “yourself”, these are a few ways you can beat the blues come the holiday season:

Don’t be tempted to “hunker down”

Even if you’re just taking a quick walk to the library or the corner coffee shop, staying active and being in the company of other people can lift your mood. Simple gestures like a smile exchange as the person coming out holds the door for you can elevate your spirit.

But what if those places you go only remind you of the places and people you miss? Come up with something new to occupy yourself. For instance, if you live in a city that’s known for its tourism, consider going on a guided tour with some enthusiastic visitors. Just seeing happiness and smiling faces can put a spring back in your step. If that doesn’t really sound appealing, you could always volunteer at a shelter for animals or do some other activity that engages your spirit and doesn’t allow you to dwell on sadness.

If you really don’t want to be around others, consider calling or texting with someone you think might be having the same bout of holiday blues. Sometimes just knowing someone else feels the same (and cares enough to call!) can put you and your friend in a place of good cheer.

It’s okay to cry – and it’s okay to smile, too!

What if you’ve lost someone? Or worse, lost them at or near the holiday season?

You might not feel like you deserve to be happy, or maybe you feel guilty if you do experience some happiness around the holidays – which drives you further into a funk. It’s not uncommon to feel survivor’s guilt, but don’t allow your grief to dry up your wellspring of happiness.

There are five stages of grief and they don’t follow a set pattern – you may go through several stages multiple times in the same day, or even in the same hour. It’s only human to be sad and recognize that you miss your loved one – but there’s no shame in smiling or letting yourself be happy. After all, your lost loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad for long periods of time.

Reminiscing and longing for past holidays

Remember when you were a kid and Christmas was the best day ever? Christmas as an adult doesn’t always hold the same kind of feeling. Looking back at the holidays of yesteryear or keeping with traditions is a part of every holiday – not just Christmas. But maybe your memories are stuck on replay and you wish you could go back to a happier time…that isn’t a bad thing, but if you remain mentally in the past, you could be missing out on happiness in the present.

One of the best ways to get through a rough holiday memories patch is to create new ones. Making new memories or starting new traditions gives you hope and helps you look forward to the next time the holidays roll around. Maybe bake some cupcakes or cookies for some children at your local hospital or cook a meal for a family on your street. It’ll take your mind off bad memories and sadness as you watch faces light up from your gifts.

Sunny days are few and far between in the winter

The winter season brings good cheer, but in many parts of the world it also brings overcast skies and a lack of sunlight. This loss of natural light adversely impacts many people. In fact, there’s even an apt name for it – Seasonal Affective Disorder. When you find the blues setting in, go outside or, better yet, give yourself permission to book tickets to a place where the sun is still shining. Join a gym. Both sunlight and activity can help boost your immunity to the winter holiday blues.

But what if you don’t even have any money?

There’s nothing worse than already being in a funk than not having any money to do anything about it. You might be hoping to buy presents for children in your family or for friends, but limited resources can put a damper on your holiday spirit. But material items are not the only things you can offer during the holidays. You can volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, or go to the local hospital or nursing home and just hang out with patients. Patients who have no family nearby or have infrequent visitors feel incredible when you just lend an ear. There’s nothing better for your own happiness than spreading some to others.

Cheer Up 😊

All in all, the best process of eliminating your holiday blues is remaining true to yourself. If you’re invited to a gathering, what would you do if it wasn’t the holidays? You’d go. Don’t stay in isolation. Say yes to these invitations, eat, drink, and be merry! Acknowledge the small joys and be grateful for them – you’ll uncover some moments of true happiness.

And those are some memories to carry into the next year and beyond.

When a Pastor is Overwhelmed: How to Recharge and Evolve

By | Resources

As a pastor, you want to appear strong and capable no matter the situation you are in. As one of God's representatives on earth, you feel under great pressure to perform your duties well no matter what trials you are personally facing.. Your strong front may be hiding a wild swirl of emotions, though.

Ministering to people is a 24/7 job that brings daily if not hourly challenges. All pastors must feel overwhelmed at times, but some never acknowledge how they are feeling. It is dangerous to ignore your own mental and emotional well-being, however. When you are overwhelmed, you need to take concrete steps to address your needs, both for your own sake and for the sake of your religious community.

The Reality of Being Overwhelmed

People with anxiety disorders often feel overwhelmed, but anyone can experience this issue. Anxiety has many causes, but it is an internal battle often triggered by external events. As a pastor, you have many demands made on your time, making it difficult to complete all of your tasks. In addition to job pressures like church attendance, parishioner counseling, and church management issues, you also have to deal with your own family difficulties. You have to worry about your finances, housing, childcare, car maintenance, etc. Sometimes the sheer volume of the tasks you face can send you into emotional gridlock.

When you reach this point, you can easily become consumed with anxiety, which means you cannot focus on anything else. Your brain actually shifts its resources to address the areas that are suffering, meaning you are often unable to perform other tasks. Your thinking, memory and even physical capabilities are affected by your anxiety. That means that your job performance and personal relationships can decline, making you even more anxious and overwhelmed.

While prayer is certainly an effective first step in attacking anxiety, the divine answers you seek may well be found on the mortal plain. When you are laboring under an anxiety burden, you need to use all the tools at your disposal: both spiritual and earthly.

A Pastor's Traditional Role

A pastor's job description is a lengthy one. You have to represent your church and maintain a connection to the denomination's leadership and goals. You are also the face of the church in the local community. You have to provide leadership in every aspect of your particular church and manage a great deal of administrative work. You spend much time performing your official duties, including Sunday services, weeknight services, weddings and funerals. Most importantly, you dispense comfort and guidance to your parishioners. You are constantly on duty.

These expectations could overwhelm anyone, especially when your own personal life poses challenges. You suffer trials and tribulations just like anyone else. As a leader, you also feel pressure to always be calm and serve as an example of strength. Of course, these expectations are unrealistic and only add to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Pastors can often become trapped by their own performance expectations.

Ways for Pastor's to Cope

The problem with being overwhelmed is that it makes you feel as if you have no choices. You end up running to one task after another, spending all of your time and energy just maintaining things. When you are experiencing this problem, taking any kind of new action can seem like too much effort. But pastors do have resources to fight this state of being. In addition to your religion, there are some practical steps you need to take to get your emotional state to a healthier place.

Rest and revival

You've probably been told numerous times that you need to slow down. When someone says to “take it easy,” your first response is probably, “How?” After all, you have so much to do, very little time and people are counting on you. All of those things may be true, but you are not able to perform well when you are feeling overwhelmed. You have to stop the madness for everyone's sake.

First, take time off. Stop the vicious cycle for at least 24 hours so that you can rest and revive. (If you can take more time, do so.) You will physically feel better but, more importantly, you will be able to get some perspective on your situation. As a pastor, finding even a day alone can be challenging, so leave town if you must. Give your location to a trusted family or friend and then unplug. You may feel indispensable, but the world will keep on spinning while you tend to yourself. Most people won't even question your absence.

Learn to delegate more. You became a pastor so that you could help people, so saying “no” to anyone may be nearly impossible or you. But practically, you do need to refuse some requests. You cannot serve on infinite boards and lead the prayers at every community event and feel well. At the very least, you need to delegate more tasks to others. Let someone else take the lead on various projects. Giving up a little power is hard, but you cannot do everything yourself and be emotionally healthy.

Do as Thoreau instructed and simplify. Take a good look at both your home and work life. What are you doing that is not necessary? Have you created too many groups at church? Are your church events becoming more elaborate and time-consuming? Look at your home life as well. Have you surrounded yourself with too many things that interfere with your spiritual life? Get rid of the stuff that isn't enhancing your life or the life of your parishioners.

Revise your schedule. Chances are that your current one has little or no “me” time on it. As a pastor, you are trained to think of others and not of yourself, but your mind and soul need some enjoyment. Fun even. If you like to play sports or go to a gym, then you should. Regularly. Plus exercise is a proven way to reduce anxiety. If you have a hobby, pursue it once a week. If you don't have a hobby, get one. You may think these things are frivolous, but they are vital to your mental health. You can't be on duty every minute of your life and not feel overwhelmed.

Family and Church Support

Asking for family and parishioner support means more than delegating tasks. It means letting the people in your life know that you need help. While you don't have to make an announcement from the pulpit, you should be comfortable with telling people that you are feeling overwhelmed. Begin with a trusted family member or friend. Then you can share your situation with the church's hierarchy. Many denominations have their own counseling services since pastor burnout is a common occurrence. Pastors can also benefit from seeking professional counseling not affiliated with the church. The key is acknowledging that you need help and then seeking it out.

If you feel ashamed of needing help, you should remember what you have undoubtedly told your congregation many times: “Asking for help from God and man is strength and not weakness.” The Bible stresses the need for self-care“Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:4 NIV

God does not want your spirit to be overwhelmed. Acknowledging that you need help from your family and church members is essential to keeping the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Fixing yourself is not a selfish act, either. When you are strong and happy, you are of much more helpful to others.

Pastors by necessity hold themselves to a high standard. You are representing God, which is a beautiful and terrifying responsibility. You are a role model for your own parishioners, the members of your extended community and your own family. To say your role comes with a lot of pressure is understating the reality. In fact, outsiders might ask if there was any way for you not to be overwhelmed.

You do have powerful weapons on your side. You have your strong spiritual beliefs and the Bible. These are a strength and comfort to you, but alone, they are not enough. You have to take action to address the state of being overwhelm. First, rest and take stock. Then make concrete changes to your life by simplifying it on all fronts. Say no more. Play more. Eat well and get plenty of exercise. Let other people help you with your burdens. And be kind to yourself. God does not want you to live an unhappy and overwhelming life. In fact, you have been instructed to enjoy it:

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

thanksgiving sermons

Thanksgiving Sermons: 10 Thanksgiving Sermons Pastors Will Be Thankful For

By | Bible Verses

With Thanksgiving approaching, there is no better time to remind your community about the power of praise and thankfulness. If you need some prompts for your upcoming service, here are ten great ideas to get you started. Each one comes with scripture which you can then use as the foundation for the rest of your sermon.

1. The Power of Thanksgiving & Praise

Psalms 103: 1, 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

The Psalms are full of admonition to give thanks. When we think of the life of King David, we remember how he came from being a young shepherd boy to ruling all of Jerusalem. Here, he tells us to “forget not” all of God's benefits. It could be that he knew where his true strength lie, and how important it was to acknowledge it on a daily basis.

2.       Why We Should Give Thanks Every Day

Psalm 69:30

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving comes once a year, but we can find little things every day to be grateful for.

3.       Different Ways to Give Thanks

Psalm 95:2

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Encourage your congregation to use songs and even poetry as new ways to vocalize their thankfulness. Little children can be taught to sing songs of praise at an early age. Sometimes the heart doesn’t know what to say, but a song is perfect.

4.       Being Thankful for Loved Ones and Family

1 Corinthians 1:4

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…

Your congregation has probably heard it before: charity begins at home. But so does praise and thankfulness. Sadly, our families and closest to us are oftentimes the ones who bear the brunt of our ingratitude at home. Use Thanksgiving as a way to bring the sermon closer to home—speak of the importance of showing a grateful heart for family members, even those who are hardest to love.

5. Thanksgiving Even When Things Are Tough

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

“All circumstances” is a pretty broad statement. But the point that the apostle Paul was trying to make here is that we can find a reason to give thanks, no matter what is happening. If your community is experiencing rough times, health issues, or other problems, address the need to look at the situation and still find a way to give thanks for all the good.

6.  Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving

Colossians 4:2

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

This sermon, instead of praying for things in the usual way, you can commit to only prayers of gratitude. Lift up your congregation by offering a prayer that only outlines what you, as a pastor, are thankful for. Find a way to focus this prayer session on only gratitude, and see what a difference it makes!

7.   Being Thankful for God’s Love

Jeremiah 33:11

Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

God’s love is often hard to comprehend. But one thing we know for sure: it is steadfast, unwavering. Your community may find it hard to see or feel God’s love in the world around them. Yet, you can use this Thanksgiving as a way to bring it back to the truth: His love endures forever.

8.   Thankfulness for God’s Forgiveness

Isaiah 12:1

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

One of the most wonderful things about the Christian faith is the hope we have in Forgiveness. And this is a powerful thing to be thankful for. Everyone has sinned at some point, and “come short of God’s glory”. Yet, we have this beautiful promise of God’s comfort, even in the most depressing times. He does not hold anger against us, and neither should we with our brethren.

9.  Finding People to Be Thankful For

1 Timothy 4:4

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

Can you find it in your heart to love those who are hard to love? God does, and He rejects no one who wants to enter the Kingdom. This verse outlines how we are all God’s creations and must treat each other like the treasures He knows we are.

10. Teaching Our Children to Be Thankful

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.

If there is a youth service, or a special Thanksgiving celebration just for the children, make them the focus of thankfulness. Encourage them that God is always there, to crown them with mercy, and give them wings as an eagle. This could be symbolic of strength, or conviction that they need as young people.

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These are just a few ideas for formulating your own sermons during Thanksgiving. You can always tailor each one to your situation, or find more Bible verses to promote a spirit of Thanksgiving. Encourage those who want to donate and give to the church with the progress the church has made. You can bring statistics into these “Gratefulness” sessions. How many missionaries were sent out this year? How many lives came closer to faith? Keeping track of these statistics is also easier with a Giving App, or way to digitize your outreach programs. Check out our blog and other articles for more practical tips on making an impact.

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