There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays...Unfortunately
By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC
For much of the world the holidays are a time of joy, peace and goodwill towards men. We have songs like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and, as the title says, "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays." However, for more people than we'd like to admit, this last title reflects the emotions of sadness and anger, rather than peace and good will. The truth is that a high percentage of people see the holiday season as a time of year when they battle depression, when old feuds re-emerge, and when they feel more stressed than any other time.
It is safe to say that the holidays are a time when all emotion tends to get amped up to new levels. If you're happy, you tend to get happier during the holidays. If you are struggling with anxiety, what time of the year can be more anxious than a season where traffic is a nightmare and finances are tight? If you lean towards sadness, the holidays can throw you into out-and-out depression. The holidays seem to magnify whatever we are feeling in general.
So this article is for those of you who struggle through the holiday period. I just want to offer some simple suggestions that I hope will get you through and might even make the days a little better. Here goes:
- Allow yourself to mourn: The holidays can be especially rough if they remind you of loved ones who have passed away. I admit that I fall into this category as my father died right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. When this happens (and more people die during the holiday season than any other time) it can make the holidays pretty melancholy. Christmas just doesn't feel the same. In fact, it can get downright lonely. Many people try to shove those feelings aside or bury them under a load of presents or plenty of eggnog. But I suggest that you embrace your mourning instead. Give yourself permission to think about whomever you have lost. In fact, pull out their pictures, write them a letter, and remember them. What better way to honor their memory? In the process, you also are handling your own emotions in a much healthier way and getting them out (at appropriate times and places) might free you up emotionally to enjoy the holidays more. You can also mourn things besides people. You can mourn what WAS. In other words, it's okay to think about and mourn they way things used to be, if those are fond memories for you. It's not a bad thing to get sentimental about the past...as long as you don't stay there. You can also mourn the way things currently are. Maybe life is not the way you planned for it to be or even the way you WANT it to be. You can grieve that...without getting stuck there. The point is that it is better to face your emotions than avoid them. Get them out in healthy ways so you can...
- Focus on what is good: I absolutely believe you should embrace your sadness or grieve your losses. However, it is not beneficial or even accurate to only focus on those things. You must choose to also take account of the blessings in your life. Things may not be exactly they way you want. Maybe you have lost someone very important to you. But don't forget about the good things in your life. Children, grandchildren, good friends, a home, a job, food on the table.....if you choose to, the list would probably be longer than you think. If you struggle through the holiday season, maybe it would be a great idea to sit down and make a list of the positive aspects in your life. Don't stubbornly hold on to your negativity so much that you can't adjust your perspective and see the beauty in your life.
- Do your part to make things better: Don't check out of life. Don't be the person who complains about everything but never makes an effort to improve things. Every situation is different but do your part to make the holidays better than they currently are. Maybe that means you need to forgive someone who has wounded you. Maybe you need to reconcile with that relative that you haven't spoken to in years. Maybe it just means that you proactively reach out to start new traditions or just bring an element of joy that is currently missing. Perhaps things are not as good as they once were but you can make a difference in that if you want to. The "way things were" were that way because people made them that way. You have the same opportunity and I would encourage you to be that person who makes a difference now.
I'm sure there are so many other suggestions I could offer to get through the holidays. These are only a few but I hope and pray that they help. I know it is not easy to "snap out of it" as many people say. If it were that easy, we would all do it. However, I do believe you can balance mourning over the past with embracing the future....and, in so doing, experience healing for yourself while adding newfound joy to those around you.
Happy Holidays......and God bless.
Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor and nationally certified counselor who specializes in issues of masculinity, parenting and relationships. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.
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