Happy, Healthy Holidays.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
“We’re simply having a wonderful Christmastime.”
“I’ll be home for Christmas.”
Hopefully, these lyrics from popular holiday songs resonate with you. I wish this for everyone. For many, this season of holidays is their most favorite time of year, bringing joy, peace, happiness and hope.
For others, this may be the end result, but it takes a bit more work.
For still others, this ideal bears no resemblance to their actual holiday experience.
This is written for anyone who finds themselves in any of those three groups, or anywhere in between. It is for anyone who chooses to experience the holidays, no matter where their experience may fall.
“I have the most incredible memories of Christmas from my childhood. It was a magical time of year; my family gathered, my mom cooked, my dad sang, we shared gifts with the needy, and surprised each other with gifts as well. When I no longer believed in Santa Claus, it was still magical. It is my favorite time of year.”
“My younger brother was born on Christmas Eve. While it was sad that my parents weren’t home for Christmas that year, it is still a wonderful time of year, because I remain close to him, and to my parents as well. We talk about how special that Christmas was each year.”
“My dad died when I was young, and my mom struggled to make Christmas special for us because we all missed him so much, and we struggled to make ends meet, so Christmas was especially tough for us. I struggle with that every year.”
“My mom’s family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and I could never understand this as a kid. I do understand it now, and it makes me more sensitive to the fact that many people don’t recognize or celebrate it.”
“I’ve always been the cook/baker in my family, so I took on much of the holiday food preparation for as long as I can remember. I do this now with my family, with very little help. I still enjoy it, but it would be nice to have more help in the kitchen from my family.”
“I grew up with very little extra for Christmas gifts, but my husband came from a family who always had plenty of money all year round. I don’t go overboard on spending, but I feel like he spends too much.”
Each of us comes with different memories and expectations for the holiday experience. These expectations can blend together well, but also can cause tension and stress between family members, or it may cause you to feel stress within. It is important to realize we all view it through a different lens.
Keeping holiday stress at a low level may indeed be a challenge, but if we take a moment to regroup and consider why we engage in our holiday habits—good and bad, it may help us experience more joy.
It is well documented that holidays bring about more stress for many people. Stress, as we all know, works against good health. Reducing stress in all aspects of our life is generally a good idea to further good health, especially during times such as these when there are increased expectations and obligations.
One good way to reduce stress surrounding these expectations and obligations is simple: reconsider the necessity of everything you feel you need to do in order to make the holidays complete. If any of these stressors are bringing you down, then take a step back and re-think your holiday habits. If it is too late this year to make changes, spend some time thinking hard about what brings you joy, and what might be adding to your stress. You can start planning early next year for a less-stress Christmas next year.
- Do I really need to send cards to everyone on the list? Do I even need to send cards at all?
- Could I reduce the amount I spend on each person? Could I eliminate any gift recipients? Perhaps those who do not reciprocate or those who do not acknowledge the gift would be the best ones to consider first.
- Is it necessary that I put up all my decorations every year? If you dread it, don’t do it. Scale back and see how it feels. Sometimes less is more.
- If you are hosting family, could you ask for more contributions to the meals? If this doesn’t feel right, consider simplifying the menu.
- Being at home on Christmas morning is important to many people, especially those with small children. If this is important to you, assertively let others know so that they understand your desire to keep that morning special for your family.
- Perhaps you fantasize about “skipping Christmas,” just like in the book by that name. If you can pull it off without severing or permanently scarring any family bonds, don’t rule it out as an option. Some families prefer to take a vacation instead of being home, and spending family time on their terms before or after the holidays.
It appears that the activities for yet another holiday season may very well be dictated by COVID. Realizing this is truly a world-wide problem, and not just your problem may make it easier to tolerate.
Whatever reason you celebrate the season—or if you don’t, spend a moment considering the motivations why you do what you do—or don’t do.
If it doesn’t feel right to you, and it brings you stress, you have the power to make those changes.
Life is too short to have it any other way.