What is a holiday - a holy day, a day for merrymaking, a day of rest? Whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, the holidays are designed to meet the human need for finding meaning, celebrating and having a break from routine life.
Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine conducted a scientific poll about holiday stress. Forty-one percent of those polled owned up to finding Christmas and Hanukkah stressful. The reality is that for many people saddness comes amid the holiday happiness. If you have suffered a loss or are not in good health, traditions may change and everything can seem different. Depression may deepen with the short daylight hours of the winter months. Financial and time burdens may highten the stress. Domestic violence, alcohol use, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts may escalate. Divorce may complicate family gatherings.
Like many families, my family and I have experienced life changes and losses that impact our lifestyle, including our holiday plans and festivities. We miss my parents who have passed, other family relationships are different, health conditions have changed, children are grown, and we find ourselves in the process of making new traditions and altering old ones. We will still light the Christmas tree and have gifts underneath. Candles will likely play a big part in the festivities because my son and his wife love them. I will decorate with red since it was my mom's favorite color. We will read from the Bible and have a Nativity set to honor the birth of Jesus. There will be a lot of food, music, and fun - but the pace may just be a little slower this year.
Like most folks, we will not have a Norman Rockwell type of holiday season. But there is good news from the Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine poll. In spite of it all, 62 percent of those polled say they still really look forward to the holidays. They are still filled with good fun and warm memories. If you struggle during this time of year, here are some helpful tips for coping:
- Pace yourself.
- Don't strive for perfection, be realistic.
- Take a break.
- Honor some old traditions.
- Create new rituals.
- Say "no" if you feel time or financial pressure.
- Keep up your usual exercise routine.
- Allow yourself a time to cry or feel sad.
- Allow yourself to be happy and laugh.
- Spend time with supportive family or friends.
- Make a new friend or contact an old friend.
- Lean on your faith.
Finally, give yourself permission to just take it all in, relax, have fun, and remember that the holiday season only comes around once a year. Happy Holidays!