“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” At least that’s what Andy Williams sang back in the 60’s. With kids jingle belling, parties for hosting and of course all the mistletoeing. It’s supposed to be the hap-happiest season of all, but we know that unfortunately that’s not the case for many people. For some this time of the year comes with greater stress, higher anxieties and deeper depression.
With all the business of the season with work parties (and having to tolerate the fellow employee that drives you crazy), kids school performances and having to find perfect gift (well, any gift that will do), we seem to run, go, hurry, and wonder how we will have the time to get everything done. And then we add on the anxiety of having to get together with family hoping that the siblings will get along or that Uncle Bob doesn’t enjoy the eggnog too much or that Mom doesn’t use the time together to say something to Sarah on how she needs to straighten out her life and make better decisions (that really helps to spread the Christmas cheer).
And then for some there is the reality that they feel alone and every commercial on television or movie says that they are suppose to have this loved one who will be close to connect. Feeling socially isolated is one of the biggest symptoms of depression during the holidays. People who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions during this time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse. These individuals may see other people spending time with friends and family, and ask themselves, "Why can't that be me?" or "Why is everyone else so much happier than I am?"
Some people may be keenly aware of the loss of a loved one during the holiday season. It could have been a recent loss that happened during some point within the year and this is the first Christmas without them. For others this could be a loss from 20 years ago that is being triggered. My point is that there are many reasons why for some this isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. So what can we do to help?
1. Lower your expectations. It’s better to have lower expectations and have them met than to have high expectations and be disappointed when they aren’t reached.
2. Remember to have healthy boundaries in place with others and respect your own boundaries. Maybe that means leaving the Christmas party earlier if that manager is going to keep making fun of you or telling Dad that if he is going to keep trying to argue about that dreaded topic you will leave the room.
3. Keep your healthy lifestyle choices going. Remember to keep wise sleeping patterns, eating right and exercising (going out for a walk to enjoy the Christmas lights in the neighbourhood or in the park or the woods helps many people relax and feel better when they are feeling overwhelmed.
4. Volunteer! Helping others can also be very helpful for you, too. It is well known that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. While you give, you gain perspective! Some ideas for volunteering this holiday season could include; working at a soup kitchen, sponsoring a family through the Salvation Army, organizing a gift drive, or helping your neighbour with a yard or house task.
5. STOP and remember what the season is really supposed to be about. Traditionally it was to celebrate that we are loved. That we are loved by family and friends but ultimately that there is a God who loves us all so much that He would come down to earth as a baby in order to build a bridge for us to be in relationship with Him.
So it might not be the most wonderful time of the year to some, but we can experience a Silent Night, Holy Night (where) All Is Calm… and experience some peace if we keep or perspectives straight.
May this season of Christmas be filled with laughter and joy, that there will be times for all where you feel a calm and peace inside. And remember to take a moment to remember Mary’s Boy Child Jesus Christ (I love Boney M’s version!!)