Not feeling it this season? Started getting depressed as soon as you saw the Christmas decorations go up the day after Halloween? It’s not because you’re famous for being able to give the Grinch a run for his money. You can get by most of the time without people thinking your heart is two sizes too small.
It’s just that once we all get into the “Happy Holiday!” swing of things, people are going to start expecting that you be, well….happy. But you might not be feeling happy, merry, jolly, or anything else usually associated with the holidays.
Happy Holiday Mood Busters…
You may be recently separated or divorced or widowed… spending your first holiday season without your partner, his/her family, or your own kids. You may be dealing with a severe medical diagnosis that forces you to think about your symptoms, medications, prognosis, and huge medical costs. You may have recently lost someone important to you, or this time of year just highlights for you that you have lost someone important to you.
The holidays for many people are about friends and family…and we miss those who are not with us keenly at this time. And if you struggle with depression, anxiety, addictions, or an eating disorder….the holidays can feel like you’re running a tinsel-covered gauntlet. In slow-motion. With someone forcing you to run with bells on. And this is only one source of good-old Holiday Stress.
HERE COMES THE STUFF…
Another major source of stress is all the STUFF that comes with the season. There’s all the stuff that needs to be bought, charged or paid for, wrapped, cooked, baked, decorated, lit, attended, drunk, eaten, and put up with. Not necessarily in that order. There’s the cleaning, the entertaining, the office parties with required attendance (I don’t think this should get to count as a party, but I digress), the holiday concerts, the family get-togethers. Feeling any holiday stress yet? No?
The question of whether to send or not to send holiday greeting cards, with or without the photo of the smiling family, with or without the family letter update. With or without holiday stamps. And personalized holiday address labels. Okay…even I just managed to stress out on that one. There’s the pressure of gift-giving, gift-buying, and gift-receiving. So much STUFF!!! And somebody’s gotta pay for all that stuff.
I’M DREAMING OF A PERFECT HOLIDAY
There’s the stress you can feel at the holidays because you’re trying to recreate your holidays from the past, or from your childhood. Except you live within different circumstances than your parents or grandparents did…you have to take into account that you may not have the time, hands, or resources to recreate something you remember. Or instead of trying to recreate what you had, you’re trying to create what you never had…the perfect holiday. Except there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to the holidays…
HO, HO, HOPE
If you’re going to try to get through the holidays with your sanity, credit score, and waistline intact, then you’re going to have to have a strategy. You need a plan to deal with every stressor that the holidays may present. Failing to plan will be planning to fail here. Uh-oh…I feel my inner girl scout kicking in!
Let’s get a plan together for what you WANT to do, first. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’m giving you permission right now…in case you think you need it. The holidays do not have to resemble any image you have ever seen before…whether it’s from your past or from the Hallmark card commercials.
YOU get to decide what this time of year means to you.
YOU get to decide whether any of the rituals of the season have any real meaning to you…gift-exchanges, baking cookies, decorating your home or yard, sending holiday greetings, attending parties, going to religious services.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ANYWAY?
So, first things first. What do the holidays mean to you? What do you want to celebrate? And why?
Do you want to celebrate the emergence, in the dead of winter, of a little light? (Okay, maybe a lot of lights?)
Do you want to celebrate the introduction of the concepts of love, peace, hope, and forgiveness among human beings?
Do you want to celebrate the connections you feel to other humans, whether you are related by blood-ties or not?
Do you want to celebrate the holiday traditions that have been passed down through your family, your community, your culture?
What, if anything, about the holiday season, matters to you? What do YOU want to be a part of? Once you can figure out what this holiday time actually means to you, it’s going to help serve as your “sorting chart” for what things you’re going to do and not do.
SORTING CHART, NOT SORTING HAT
Okay, so if you’ve gotten a read on what really matters to you about the holidays….now you can start looking at all those “expectations” and invitations and TO DO lists and start checking it with that sorting chart. You can write the 2-3 things this season means to you at the top of a page of paper: For example, you might have “Enjoy the warmth of being with others” and “Enjoy the religious rituals of the season.” Where does buying gifts for everyone you have ever come in contact go? Nope…don’t see it on there.
How about sending holiday greeting cards? Maybe it fits under “enjoy the warmth of being with others” for those folks you won’t get to be with. Parties? Definitely on your sorting chart. Baking 12 dozen different types of cookies? Not on your list (although that one is definitely on mine…that’s because “Enjoy continuing family holiday traditions” is at the top of my sorting chart.)
See…if you’ve got your priorities straight, you can figure out what you want to do, and what you don’t, more easily. And without guilt…I don’t think the holiday season is supposed to be about guilt. Pretty sure about that.
WHAT IF I JUST WANT IT ALL TO GO AWAY?
Now, if you’re not in the mood to do anything this holiday season…don’t.
I’m serious…if you are grieving or very ill, suffering a major loss or trauma, then trying to “get happy” isn’t going to help.
If you’ve got a bad case of the stomach flu, just because there’s a huge party going on in the next room, it doesn’t mean you have to get up and go mingle. You’re allowed to stay in the bathroom and just try to get through the night. If you’re having a blue Christmas, a heavy Hanukkah, or a queasy Kwanzaa then just let yourself be. I think part of the “spirit of the season” is about kindness. Be kind to yourself. Show yourself some compassion.
If there’s anything…anything at all…that might help you to get through this time of year more easily, then please get it for yourself. It’s okay to spend the holidays cruising or in a different location if you’ve separated, divorced, or lost a loved one and can’t bear to be in the house with all the familiar holiday surroundings…except that special someone.
It’s okay to skip parties, events, services. On the flip side, if there’s something that you really need to help you make it through, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it, get it for yourself if you can, or let someone else get it for you.
If you can’t bear to shop alone, bake alone, go to events alone, or just be alone at the holidays…ask someone for help with this. A lot of people have “enjoy showing kindness to others” at the top of their sorting chart….your request is going to fit in nicely.
So, this season, let it be your goal to get your priorities straight. Figure out what really matters to you. Discover what you really want to celebrate about these holidays (if anything).
And then go be whatever type of merry you are up to being. I wish you the very best this holiday season.