The Hallmark channel begins airing Christmas movies in October. You know the ones.
A wholesome, simple-minded country bumpkin meets a cold-hearted city executive and persuades them to fall in love with Christmas. A predictable succession of hot cocoa drinks and Christmas tree farms follows. There may be a very slight climax where the urbanite returns to the city, only to realize how much they miss the country. Then comes the happy ending sprinkled with twinkling lights and a dusting of snow.
For some, this is the definition of holiday happiness. All the warmth, love, and connection one could imagine…truly the pinnacle of an entire year now gone.
But Hallmark movies rarely account for the unfortunate side of the holiday season. The side marred by loneliness, depression, the grief of loved ones lost, separation from children because of a divorce, family turmoil, illness, unemployment, financial strain and unmet expectations.
The cascade of lights and ornaments and trees and music and movies can be nothing short of nauseating – not to mention painful – for people whose lives do not resemble a Hallmark movie. Furthermore, the demands and stressors of the holiday season are steep. This is a problem we’ve largely brought upon ourselves through futile efforts to create the “perfect” Christmas.
No matter how you feel about Christmas or the holiday season, there are some things that can help make this time of year more manageable.
If you do the whole National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation thing – everything short of Cousin Eddie and his notorious sh***r – then good for you! Wrap those gifts, blast that holiday music, spew decorations everywhere, break out your best ugly sweater and relish in everything “Christmas.” Just don’t forget that not everyone shares your Christmas cheer.
On the other hand, if the holidays are painful or difficult for you, allow yourself to distance from all the secular holiday babble without guilt or anger. Remember that solitude can be good; isolation is not. Everyone benefits from good social connections…holiday enthusiasts and Grinches alike.
Give yourself permission to say ‘no’. It’ll be okay. Try new traditions if the old ones are too painful.
Do you have unrealistic, perfectionistic expectations about how the holidays should go? If so, let them go and opt for ones that are more realistic.
Here’s a novel idea: Don’t go into debt. Cultivate gratitude, not clutter. In addition, consider that kids rarely remember things. They remember feelings.
After the holidays pass, find something new each week to look forward to. Stay connected with family, resume regular workouts, and get back to eating healthier foods. The “blues” are usually temporary as we transition back into real life, schedules, work, school, and the chaos of everyday living. If they persist for too long, consult a professional.
Andrews & Associates Counseling is owned and operated by Dr. Stephanie Wick, who is a long time resident of the Manhattan area. She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT) and Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in Kansas.