If the upcoming holiday season is starting to cause you stress and anxiety already … you are not alone!
This time frame from now through New Years is traditionally a time of great expectation and anticipation, increased spending, more family togetherness, heightened emotions (including sadness) and often more to do than can reasonably fit in one’s schedule. It is a time of great contradiction for many, many people. It is truly a Love/Hate Relationship, for most of us. We love the memories of the past and hate the strain of it on the present. Or we have a vision of the classic family gathering and we are confronted with the realities of our own “crazy” families. Or we overspend, overeat and and pay the price when come January we are deeper in debt and can’t fit into our clothes.
We have grown up and been taught over the course of our lives to be thankful for all that we have and to appreciate the people that are close to us. Yet, this poignant time of year is frequently marred by the tensions that life presents or, perhaps, that we create for ourselves. None of us live perfect lives, for there is no perfection. None of us have perfect families either. When it comes to family dynamics, the holidays emphasize the good, the bad and the ugly. So looking forward to the holidays can lead to angst, frustration, anger, hopefulness, joy and exhaustion all at the same time.
Are we having fun yet?
The Love/Hate Relationship with the holidays is most succinctly pronounced in the conflict that occurs when we feel bad during a time that is supposed to feel good. Our efforts to reconnect with family and friends, do charitable things, fulfill the expectations that we have and that our families have for us, to make the holidays positive and memorable become a time that many people want to just get it over with as quickly as possible.
Too much on our plate can refer to our over consumption of food, too much togetherness or the over scheduling of activities. In some situations, the disappointment of not being together with family and/or friends is more to the point, highlighting the loss and sadness of no connection – when it APPEARS as though everyone else in the world is joyful but you.
Especially difficult to deal with are those emotions that are evoked due to the losses that we may have had over the years. Ironically, this time of joy and giving, caring and sharing, produce incredible sadness or depression for those of us who have experienced losses like death of a loved one, divorce, career upset, financial reversals, moving, or conflict causing loss of love or friendship. So, for some people the best time of year becomes the worst time of year.
CHANGE IT UP A LITTLE
In addition, these difficult economic times have forced all of us to reconsider our Holiday Rituals in terms of spending including traveling, entertaining and gift giving. It is a tough adjustment and our past memories often define the way things “should” be, creating a conflict within. Internal conflict leads to stress, anxiety and depression. But truly, it is not a bad thing!
My way of supporting people through these kinds of changes is to encourage them to create new customs and rituals that focus on the relationships they want to foster, seek the simplest way of doing something rather than the most elaborate and recognize that there is great wisdom in the words “out with the old and in with the new” referring to festivities, staying at home rather than celebrating elsewhere and enjoying what you have rather than getting more.
How can we deal with the broad range of emotions during this time of year?
- Become realistic about how this time generally affects us
- Review past years and identify what feels good and what doesn’t.
- Choose to avoid the activities that produce negative outcomes like over planning or over spending or over committing
- Schedule a time for yourself to unwind and relax
- Appreciate some of the little events in your daily schedule
- Begin a gratitude journal listing five things each day that you are thankful for
Finally, if you are prone to sadness, depression or overwhelming feelings especially at this time don’t underestimate these tendencies. Arm yourself with books or tapes that can help you deal better with these times, talk to friends and family about these feelings or call a professional. Counselors, therapists, and clergy are all equipped to help you develop some strategies to overcome the feelings evoked at this confusing time.
Fortunately or not, the Love/Hate Relationship with the holidays is destined to remain with us; it is normal! We are human, we have feelings and emotions, and they get stirred at holiday times. In a time when joy is to abound – we are hopelessly hooked on high expectations, memories of the past and the way things “were” and the media frenzy gaining speed with each day until we can start all over again on NEW YEAR’S DAY!