Theoretically, during the holiday season, we are to be filled with merriment. There are twinkle lights and candles everywhere, family is coming in, joy and peace are all around us, how could we not be happy. Cut to reality: your “to-do” list is growing, who’s actually coming to dinner keeps changing, your in-laws are staying an extra week… at your house…with their 3 dogs. You’re just trying to keep your head above water and manage the chaos.
It should come as no surprise that the holiday season, while an amazing time of the year for both the religious and the secular, is commonly a time of heightened anxiety and worsening depression. Every television program is telling us about the magic of the season. The cacophony of sounds at the malls and department stores tell us, DEMAND us, to be cheerful. But, what if we’re not? How do we enjoy the holiday season?
First, put your expectations away. Our life is not a Hallmark Movie (no offense to Hallmark). It’s complicated. It has ups and downs. Comparing yourself to how you think you should feel can lead to frustration, guilt, and even depression. Feel what you feel and make the best of it.
Secondly, and we should all pay attention to this, THE AMOUNT YOU SPEND DOES NOT EQUAL THE AMOUNT OF LOVE YOU HAVE FOR A PERSON. I put it in bold, so you may want to read it again before continuing. I’ll wait… Financial strain is anxiety provoking on an ordinary day. Add everything else that comes along with the holidays and it can be crippling. I guarantee, the people who love you do not wish for you to go into financial ruin for the sake of another wrapped gift.
Thirdly, learn to say “no”. You are not a super hero, (Unless you are. Hello Deadpool, if you’re reading this.) If you are feeling overwhelmed, delegate to others. So often, we want to please our family at the expense of our own physical and mental health. Value yourself enough to set boundaries and stick to it.
And finally, make your own traditions. Situations change. Some of us will be feeling the loss of loved ones or are away from family and friends. Some of us have just had it up to here with the status quo. There is no golden rule on how to celebrate, so live your unique experience.
Rethink the way you approach the season. It won’t always be what you envision, but focusing on the positive things in your life may help prevent the free fall into the spiral of self-doubt, guilt, and worry. You might even find yourself enjoying the holidays… but not because it’s expected.
Brooke Rieth NP