The Expectation of being “Jolly” at Christmas

“Tis the season to be ___________, Fa la la la la, la la la la!” You will recognize that as a line from the first verse of the Christmas carol, “Deck the Halls.” You will also notice that I put a blank line in there. We all know it’s supposed to be filled with the word, “Jolly,” but how many of us know that there are many other words (emotions) that could fit at times during this season of hustle and bustle.

Now, we probably could all agree that Christmas is considered to be the “Granddaddy” of all the holidays throughout the year. With all of the anticipation and expectations that it brings it can make this time of year pretty tricky with your emotions. And especially so if your personal and inner experiences are vastly different from what you see being hyped everywhere you look.

So, I wonder, how are you feeling during this time of year? When you hear that song I mentioned above, have you found yourself inserting a different word in there? You know, like; grouchy, lonely, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, etc. Followed up by, “Blah blah blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” Hey! It can happen. The season isn’t always “Jolly.” In fact, this can be the most stressful time of the year for various reasons.

The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year is what we typically call the “Holiday Season.” And the expectation is that it is supposed to be filled with laughter and cheer, loving family gatherings, sitting in front of crackling fires, and celebrating special traditions while we are spreading peace and goodwill to all mankind.

Now if you can be a part of that, GREAT! But sometimes a year comes along and you just can’t feel it. If you are experiencing any emotional upset because of circumstances in your life during this time it can be especially hard for you to put on your “game face” and act as if all is well.

And you know what? It’s okay! You are not alone. It can be totally normal to not always feel so jolly during this time of year, every year. In fact, it can be quite difficult to deal with all the added pressures the holidays bring and especially so for those dealing with anxiety and depression or any other mood disorders or emotional issues.

Or maybe, it’s that your family dynamics have changed — maybe through divorce, financial difficulties, death of a loved one, kids grown up and moved away, etc. You can insert any type of change in there. But if it is something that has happened that changes the way you used to celebrate the season and now makes it not the same, it can be emotionally hard on you to figure out how to “celebrate” the holidays.

So, are you wondering how to make it through this season because this is the year that you just aren’t “feeling it?” Below I will list some strategies that you might find helpful:

  • Examine your expectations to make sure they are realistic.
    The only place holidays are perfect are in paintings and Hallmark movies. Many people run themselves ragged rushing around in a passionate pursuit of the perfect holiday. Don’t be one of them. You can strive for plan A to go as planned but be ready and accepting if you find yourself moving on to plan B or C. Sometimes when things don’t go as planned it’s the makings for some of the best memories! And might I just make mention here of something else we all deal with that can cause some consternation at the holidays and that would be relatives. Ahhh, the relatives! I think every family has at least that “one” or maybe more family member(s) that tries the patience of the others. Well, there’s no reason to think that this Christmas will be any different. But guess what? You can’t change them, you can only control how you will handle them. My advice is don’t let it wreck your celebration.
  • Grab a hold of the parts of the holidays that you love and skip the rest.
    It will help you to feel better and experience the joy of the season when you make the choice
    and take the time to honor the traditions that you hold dear. As well as relieve some stress you
    might be feeling trying to fulfill someone else’s expectation of what you should be doing.
  • YOU be the bright star to someone else.
    Loneliness can hurt but instead of burying yourself in it, reach out and help others. This world is not short of people in need. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Serve food for those less fortunate. Bring some cheer to a nursing home. Volunteering helps you to focus on someone else instead of yourself.
  • Take care of yourself by setting some boundaries.
    Overspending is probably the most common trap of the holiday season. How many people are stuck with still paying off the bills in June while just possibly the gift they bought and went into debt over is being sold in the receivers summer garage sale (just saying!) So set some limits on “who for” as well as “how much” you are buying. It’s also a good idea to set some healthful boundaries like not overeating or drinking too much alcohol or not getting enough sleep. Over indulgences don’t bring out the best in you and can often fill the holidays with more pain and problems for you and your loved ones.

So even if you aren’t feeling very “merry and bright” right now, my hope is that you will find these strategies to be helpful to figure out what really matters to you this season. Any may you discover what you really want to celebrate about the holidays. And then? Be whatever type of “merry” you are capable of being. And with that, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!