I love Christmas, always have always will. The cooler weather, Christmas decor, gatherings with family and friends, and the celebration of the birth of a savior make this time of year fun.
But I have also lived long enough to know that Christmas, and the holidays in general, are not always a happy time. If you are processing the death of a loved one, struggling with loneliness, not financially where you want to be, battling depression, or just wishing for things to be the way they used to be…I see you and I can relate. I understand that the holidays aren’t always like Lifetime or Hallmark movies and it is ok to say that they aren’t perfect.
I think that having a plan for handling the holidays helps us manage the season and our expectations. Resiliency is cultivated when we are able to deal with and process paradigm shifts in our lives. I am not a therapist, but I will discuss some strategies that have blessed me during the holiday season.
- Take a break from your routine- A break doesn’t always have to mean a complete vacation, although it can, a break can mean treating yourself to a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate in the afternoon, taking a walk outside, or taking a new route to work. Breaking the cycle of “sameness” can help us develop a new outlook on life.
- Treat yo self- I loved the show Parks and Recreation and completely agree that sometimes…you have to treat yourself. The amount, and type, of treat is definitely controlled by our budget but doing something for yourself can help you feel better.
- Give to someone else- the exact opposite of #2 is giving to others. It truly is more blessed to give than receive. Sometimes we get so focused on what we don’t have that we forget to share our blessings with others. Sending a card of encouragement, calling an old friend, volunteering, or adopting a child for Christmas are a few great ways to give to others this season.
- Reevaluate Holiday Traditions- this suggestion is particularly helpful if you are processing the death of a loved one or changes in family/personal relationships. One thing that has been helpful in my life is recognizing that the way I celebrate the holidays may shift as people I love pass away or as time passes. I might not do the same traditions I grew up with as an adult. I may decide that I want to go out to eat instead of staying at home or I may want to go on a trip during the holidays. It takes time to figure out what that paradigm shift may look like for you, but changing the way you celebrate can help you create new traditions.
- Celebrate with friends- society often focuses so much on the nuclear family unit being the only way we can celebrate holidays. I love celebrations like “friendsgiving” and “friendsmas” because they celebrate the positive friend relationships that we have in our lives. Maybe you don’t live near your family or maybe your friends are your family. Don’t feel less than for celebrating what you have been blessed with because good friends are a blessing.
- Manage expectations- Sometimes our own expectations for the “perfect” holiday make it difficult for us to enjoy the season. By accepting that life will happen, you can navigate the unexpected by accepting change in that moment and actively seeking to find good, even when it seems that good doesn’t exist.
- Monitoring negativity- If you are having a tough holiday season, put up boundaries and try to manage sources of negativity. We can’t control everything but we can put up boundaries on our money, time, and emotional investment in others. It is our responsibility to manage our emotions and boundaries help us to do so.
- Don’t overspend- It is easy to get carried away by overbuying in this season. However, the debt accumulated follows us into a new year. Sometimes we can feel obligated to spend money we don’t have on gifts. However, there are many ways to do things that cost little to nothing during this season that show others we value their presence in our life. Some examples are: agreeing to babysit for friends with children, scheduling time in advance to catch up with a friend during the next year, visiting our family members and discussing family memories, making a meal for family or friends and the list goes on. No matter what it is, we can give to others and maintain a budget.
Several years ago, I learned about the concept of Post traumatic growth, which is the theory that difficult circumstances can produce beautiful things in our life. However, I am not naive, while you are walking through a difficult season, you may not be able to see the good that will come from it, and this is normal. So while this holiday season may not be the best, that doesn’t mean every holiday will be this way, for JOY does come in the morning. And sometimes just knowing that someone else has walked through the valley we have been in and made it out, gives us the strength to move forward.
May God bless you this holiday season and always.