The holidays are back, they often return in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re binge eating leftover Mars bars from Halloween and the next you’re cracking open the Advent calendar. Although a time of merriment for many, the holidays can be wrought with stress and a myriad of difficult emotions, which leads to the beginning of the holiday blues. Dealing with simple problems of being up a few pounds from all the indulging and having to squeeze yourself into that crimson dress, to dealing with more difficult emotions of coping with the loss of a loved one.
So how does one get through the lows of the holidays? The next few weeks will lead us from one doorstep to the next. We’ll do the usual obsessing about choosing the right gifts, bringing the proper quality of wine, and preparing the same appetizers that have been inhaled in previous years (stuffed jalapeños anyone?).
Our extended family festivities require several hours in the car for a short period of quality time. The stress of two lane highways and night driving are enough to send my pulse through the roof. In the course of our journey my children will likely knock each other over the head repeatedly and emulate obnoxious sounds until my husband and I divulge sentences (out loud and under our breath). We never imagined during our early marriage fantasies what exactly our future would entail.
Often when I’m overwhelmed, I think about what this moment will mean to me when I’m living out the final days of my existence. This is my way of looking at the big picture, while deep breathing through the latest mishap.
I regularly think about the elderly woman that lives across the street from me who lost her husband last winter. She remains in their home which I’m sure feels large and vacant without him, but to leave would mean to abandon the memories they made there.
My thoughts will wander to my father who passed away just nine days before his fiftieth birthday of a massive heart attack in his sleep. I can hear him telling me again and again that life is all about expectations, the higher they are the more likely I was to be disappointed.
When I’m feeling overcome by the wish lists and the pressures of forcing my children into festive outfits with perfectly coifed hair, I think about the little girl we lost at birth. Our first “childless” Christmas after our loss I could barely find interest in getting dressed let alone putting up a tree.
Perspective allows you to be in the moment and learn to appreciate the loudness, but it also reminds us how short life is. The things that leave a knot in my stomach now, like spending money on things that will likely be discarded in a few months, and the inevitable tipping of the scales will amount to idle chatter a decade or two from now. Just the way I felt frumpy in my wedding dress, and 15 years later I look back and realize I was half the size I am now.
So how do we embrace the unavoidable stress of the upcoming weeks and force ourselves to recognize that we are creating memories that will last us a lifetime? I believe we attain this goal, the same way we do our best to avoid over-eating, in moderation.
- Remember You’re Human
It’s important to understand there will be moments when the palpations kick into high gear. You’re human, so take a moment to step outside the commotion and remind yourself of that. Not everyone wraps themselves in black and white classics and gobs of tinsel. Whether it is a result of social anxiety, loss of a loved one, or a lack of positive encounters during the holiday season, many of us struggle. You’re going to get through it though, heck someday you’ll even look back at the staged photos missing some of those faces and dream of the days you were young and carefree.
- Create a Personal Tradition
A few years ago I started my own holiday tradition. On Christmas morning after the presents are opened I go for a run. It’s a private moment for me to reflect on what my expectations are doing to my outlook. The adrenaline combined with the crisp air and the feeling of independence force me to relax. Taking this hour of self-preservation means I can handle the details of the rest of the day, if you can’t manage an hour even thirty minutes can be beneficial. Instead of letting the holidays take control of you, you take control of them.
- Create New Rituals of Giving
Creating new rituals is another sure-fire way to boost your own contentment during the holiday season. One year we donated food to our local soup kitchen, another we showed up at the Humane Society to give blankets, towels and toys. Recognizing those who are in need actually brings wellbeing at a time when you thought you were the one who needed support the most.
- Love the Ones You’ll Miss
After the gifts are wrapped and the wine is chilled take a few moments to breath and while you do think about the people you couldn’t imagine life without. Find them and tell them you feel this way. I guarantee you will find yourself soothed by the fact that you seized the moment and created another positive holiday memory.
Whether you’re stressed from all you’ve got to do this holiday season, or are struggling with the holiday blues, leave a comment below letting us know how you’re surviving.