According to Mental Health America, the top three holiday stressors are finances, feeling the loss of loved ones and being overwhelmed with all that feels necessary for the holidays.
Many of us tend to feel as though we are on a hamster wheel, going round and round with those and other concerns and by the time the holiday is over, instead of having fond memories we are simply glad to have gotten through another year. Does this describe you?
Let’s consider the top three stressors and see if we can lighten the load somewhat.
First, most of us are feeling the tough economic times in one way or another and perhaps cannot fill the stockings to the brim as in Christmases past. Here’s where the stress can get greater, if we feel as though we are letting our loved ones down by not meeting their expectations. So we try to meet those projected expectations, even if it means seeing our credit cards skyrocket.
What can we do instead? Take a deep breath and have some compassion for the part of you that wants to make it a special holiday and the part of you that knows that jacking up the credit is not a great idea.
Here’s a thought, suggest to those you exchange gifts with to have a price limit or not exchange at all, but simply celebrate with food and their company. Quite likely, they will be relieved with the suggestion. You could even propose a holiday game night where everyone gathers for a rousing competition of Charades, Pictionary, or Scrabble. The point is we might forget the gifts that are exchanged but will probably hang on to the memories of connecting.
Life is in constant change and change is hard for most of us. The next holiday stressor is the reminder that a loved one is no longer with us. We may feel really sad as though the holiday will never be the same.
For some people this experience of loss can go from deep unprocessed grief and sadness into feeling like depression. We might hear the Christmas songs blast from the stores with joyful tunes about family gatherings and sharing a cup of cider with loved ones, but for some of us what we feel most is the loss. It could even unearth all the grief that may not have been processed from past losses.
Allow yourself to be real and to acknowledge your loved ones passing. Rather than hide form this part of life, allow yourself to be with the memories as they arise. Perhaps instead of putting the holiday pictures away, let them stay out. Take a few moments to raise your glass to this person. If it’s just too difficult to celebrate around your table, then make dinner reservations or go away for a few days to someplace relaxing, if it’s financially doable. Or, help at a homeless shelter or food pantry. If sadness and grieve come up, please allow yourselves to grieve. When we allow our feeling we are helping ourselves heal. Then remind yourself to enjoy those still here and honor those who cannot be with you by cherishing the memories and rejoicing in what you once had with them.
Finally, for anyone who has a to-do list longer than Santa’s gift list, ask yourself what would happen if everything doesn’t get done. Quite likely the world would continue turning and you worried for naught. First, consider all your expectations for the holiday. Are you trying to do it perfectly? Do you try to mirror the Lifetime holiday movie where everything ends up tied in a bright bow? It’s often a great story, but life is not that way. Yes, we can strive to make the holiday special, but when the pie crust burns or we cannot find the latest, hottest toy to have under the tree, it doesn’t mean that we failed Christmas. It means that we are human and should forgive ourselves and cut ourselves some slack.
Most importantly, if you find that you don’t have the strength to function, and if you exhibit any of the following please seek professional advice or go to your local emergency room.
· Trouble sleeping
· Unable to get out of bed
· Thoughts of causing harm to yourself or someone else
· High levels of anxiety
· Debilitating sadness or feeling of hopelessness
· Overly irritable, argumentative or aggressive
Meanwhile, my wish for you is a great and blessed holiday. Please keep me posted and let me know if I can be of any support.
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