Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Not Everyone Is Looking Forward To The Holidays
Christmas Day, 11:30 p.m. The house is empty again and all the guests have gone home. The children are asleep on the floor. You kick off your shoes and fall back on the couch. The house is a mess, and you feel empty and depressed. You are ashamed of your feelings. You accuse yourself of being ungrateful. Everything was as perfect as you could possible make it, but here you are with a big aching hole inside. Just like last year, and the year before that. What did you hope would happen that didn't?
The holidays are a very painful and miserable time for many, many people. Studies show that most of us are reluctant to share our negative feelings, particularly at this time of the year - afraid of being judged as not religious or spiritual enough, or being seen as a humbug. These studies also show that people feel more isolated in their sadness when they believe that they are the only one having this experience. The reason misery really does love company is because it lightens with sharing.
Many of us are simply "burned out" by all the decision-making and additional work, and our levels of serotonin are literally depleted. Others are homesick for the "good old days" when they were children and believed in miracles. Christmas was magic then, even when parents were poor. The child in us still expects the feeling of magic, even if we are not consciously aware of it. When nothing happens to let us relive those feeling of childhood, we feel betrayed and depressed, convinced that there is nothing really left to look forward to.
To those of you who suffer through the holidays every year, don't suffer needlessly. Make a plan to change the things you do and how you usually celebrate. If thoughts of past and better holidays make you unhappy, avoid thinking about them by keeping your mind busy with other activities.
If you can afford a trip, go to a place where the holidays are less obvious. If you are staying home, you can plan your day around some great movies you can rent, or go to the library and get a couple of books you will love to read. Don 't forget your favorite foods and snacks! If you have a hobby, start a new project and go shopping for what you'll need. (Everyone enjoys a good picture puzzle.) If you live alone and being around people is what you need, volunteer at a soup kitchen or at a hospital. Perhaps you could read to someone who never gets visitors.
As adults, only we can help ourselves, because only we know how and why it hurts. Do make a plan that changes your experience - don't dwell on the past. Prepare well ahead of time. And share your feelings with others - it may well lighten things for all of you.
Think of everything you enjoy throughout the year, and fill your holidays with it. If the old traditions don't bring you joy, it's about time for some new ones.