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.

Great Service Ideas for Your Church on the Upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday

By | Resources

There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is an American, secular holiday. The occasion commemorates the arrival of Europeans to the continent and the traditional meal early Americans held to mark the event. However, Thanksgiving is also a holiday with themes that align with the Christian religion. It is an annual occasion during which people spend time with their families, and it is an opportunity to remember the very important values of gratitude and appreciation for what you have. For that reason, despite it being a non-religious holiday, Thanksgiving is actually an excellent time to have a special service at your church. A Thanksgiving Service can be a good chance to share lessons about the values at the center of the holiday and to gather congregants and their family members while they have time away from school and work.

If you are a congregation leader and you are considering leading a Thanksgiving Service this November, you may feel like you want some guidance on how to connect the holiday to the liturgy and the tenants of Christianity. You may also want some special activities you can do at your church to make your Thanksgiving service feel even more festive. Read on for some helpful tips for planning a Thanksgiving service, as well as some ideas for making the holiday more meaningful for everyone who gets to experience it.

The Logistics: When to Have a Thanksgiving Service at Your Church

Thanksgiving is a holiday that features a meal on a specific Thursday in November. However, if you have a Thanksgiving service at your church, you may be wondering: when is the best time to have it? You don't want to interrupt people's meals, but you also want to make sure it's during a time that people have off of work and school so they can attend. You also want to make sure the message is timely and relevant to the occasion that's happening.

To plan the service, consider taking a poll or survey of congregants a month or two in advance to find the best time on Thursday that works for them. Or, pick a time for the service and announce it far in advance. That way, your congregants can plan around the scheduled service and they can make both their festive family meals and the special service at their church.

The Publicity: Spread the Word About the Service

There's a good chance your Thanksgiving service is going to be at a time you don't usually have a service. Because of that, you need to get the word out about the event, so you make sure that everyone knows about it and attends. Print flyers and hand them out at regular Sunday services, or place them on community bulletin boards. Also, update any and all social media and online presence you have with the date and time of your Thanksgiving Service. You want to make a special effort to market the service so that you ensure people are aware of it. Consider drawing attention to the special focus of the event by theming the materials: consider incorporating some fall colors or autumnal images so people will know that the service will be focused on Thanksgiving.

Ask for Help: Get Volunteers

Because the Thanksgiving Service will be on a different schedule than normal, you may need help from congregants who want to volunteer for the service. They can lead prayers, give readings, hand out literature, usher, sing, and more. Even if you do not need the extra help, a Thanksgiving service may be an opportunity to get congregants involved who do not usually participate in the service. Ask well in advance for helpers who can contribute to the holiday service so that they can prepare to be at the service and get ready to perform whatever task has been assigned to them.

Prep the Service: Choose the Content

The meat of the Thanksgiving service is that actually the content that is heard, sung, or spoke there. Take at least a week in advance to plan out the content of the service, including what prayers will be read, what sermon will be delivered (and who will be delivering it), what songs will be sung, and what other special events will take place during the ceremony. Here is some guidance for choosing the content of your Thanksgiving service.

Focus on Prayers of Thanks

As its name suggests, the focus of Thanksgiving is thankfulness and gratitude. Hone in on prayers that offer thanks and help to heighten this message. You can write your own prayers thanking God for his goodness and work, or you can plan to let congregants offer their own silent prayers of thanks. There are also several well-known prayers that focus on an appropriate Thanksgiving message. You can find a selection of these prayers at the following links:

Write a Sermon

The sermon may be the heart of a Thanksgiving service. Start preparing it well in advance so you end up with a talk to deliver that hammers home the message you want congregants to hear. If you want to choose a Bible verse or story to focus your sermon on, one popular topic for Thanksgiving is Luke's Story of the 10 Lepers. In the story, 10 lepers are healed but only one says Thank You (and it is a Samaritan). This story is about the nature of gratitude and how to acknowledge it. Also, consider getting personal in the sermon and telling stories from your own life about where you feel gratitude and what you feel appreciative for. By modeling giving thanks for congregants, you can show and explain to them what it means to express gratitude and how it can elevate both their lives and the lives of the people they are thanking. Tips for sermon writing during Thanksgiving time: if possible, write the sermon as early as you can, then practice it multiple days before the holiday. That way you can sit back and relax during your Thanksgiving meal with your own family, and you won't have to stress or worry about rehearsing your words when you should also be appreciating a holiday meal at home.

Get People Involved: Consider Additional Activities

One way that a Thanksgiving service might differ from a traditional church service is that you may want to incorporate activities into the service. Doing more active things during a Thanksgiving Service will help get more people excited and involved in the event. It is also a good way to give to people who are in need, and Thanksgiving can be a particularly hard time for those people who don't have families or means to celebrate with. Once the typical service part of your Thanksgiving service is over, consider holding the following activities:

  • Host a meal for the less fortunate at your church, and have congregants cook and serve the meal
  • Have a canned food or dry good drive associated with the service. Have people bring at least one canned good or food item when they attend. Collect the items and donate them to a local food pantry.
  • Assemble gift bags for the less fortunate with warm weather goodies and toiletries in them. These will come in handy in the upcoming cold winter months or serve as little gift bags during the festive gift-giving time of the holidays.
  • Allow people to give their words of thanks out loud to the whole congregation, or break up into smaller groups and have people share what they are thankful for. Let the whole community hear what each person has gratitude for.
  • Look for other community events that are helping to serve the less fortunate, than coordinate travel and attendance as a group and take all of the attendees over to participate.
  • Read from a non-religious book about gratitude. Find a novel, children's book, or essay that speaks to the theme of being thankful. Share all of it or some of it aloud. Help elucidate the message with texts or stories that really resonate with listeners today (and listeners of all ages)
  • Offer fellowship before and after the service. This is a time for gathering, socializing and expressing love. Also, it is a time when many people fly in town to see their loved ones, so there is a good chance that people who are not usually there will be in attendance. Allow for the church to be a space for this sharing and let people spend time together before and after the Thanksgiving service. To encourage people to stick around, offer small sweets or post-Turkey desserts after the service, so people can snack while they catch up.

Space: Make Space feel Holiday Festive

No need to go overboard at your church for Thanksgiving, but you can help your church feel like a place that people want to be and stay on the holiday by incorporating little decorative touches to remind them of the season. For Thanksgiving, consider using some autumnal or themed decor like mums, pumpkins, straw, and cornucopias on tables. Make the entire place feel like a spot for them to celebrate the occasion of Thanksgiving, not just in the sanctuary or chapel when the prayers are being said or sermons are being delivered.

Going Forward: Encouragement for the Future

One of the most important messages for the Thanksgiving service attendees to leave with is that gratitude matters not just on the holiday, but every day of the year. Cite bible verses focused on gratitude. Then give people ways to help incorporate more giving of thanks into their daily routine. You may encourage people to start a gratitude journal so they become aware of all the things they are thankful for. Or, you may give a challenge to congregants for them to go say “Thank you” at loud to one new person every single day. Focus the Thanksgiving Service on how thankfulness should be central to our lives always, and how Thanksgiving is just a holiday that allows us to recenter and re-focus on that annually.

The Thanksgiving Service: Spark Attendance, Participation, and Generosity

If you lead a congregation and you want people to get more involved in the coming months, consider having a Thanksgiving Service for the upcoming holiday. While Thanksgiving is not traditionally a Christian event, it is an opportunity to teach about and celebrate some of the same core values that lie at the heart of the religion. In addition to being a good opportunity to add in special services and a way to give families structured, fulfilling activities to do together, the holidays can also be a chance for your congregation to raise funds and help bring in more donations that can help your church continue to grow and thrive.

For fundraising and development during the upcoming holiday season, consider using NewFire Giving to help. This online giving platform comes with an app that can help make giving to your church easier and more convenient for congregants for all agents. It also has software that works on kiosks, so visitors who come during the holidays can physically make gifts while they are there. Also, NewFire Giving incorporates text-to-give, so you can appeal to younger generations who prefer to accomplish tasks from the convenience of their smartphones. Finally, NewFire Giving also comes with an educational program that can help you learn more about how to effectively fundraise so that your church is thriving and always has enough funds to run effective programming, maintain safe and beautiful structures, recruit new members, and pay a staff that can help nurture and lead.

To learn more about NewFire Giving and how it can help your congregation during this upcoming holiday season, get in touch with us today. We'll help you pick the plan that's best for you and teach you how to start growing your congregation in effective, sustainable ways.




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