“It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times.”
This is a famous quote from Charles Dickens’s novel – A tale of two cities, and one that is widely used to explain dilemmas in life.
I feel it’s perfect when talking about Christmas.
Christmas is a time for joy. It is when you get to spend time with family and friends, have fun, be merry, eat way too much and just take some time off from work and relax. But, sadly, that is not always the case. For many finding joy during the Holiday season is not easy because things don’t go as they had planned.
It is unfortunate that Christmas has turned out to be one of the most stressful times of the year. This is due mainly to the amount of pressure we pile on it, and the kind of expectations we have about Christmas.
I remember when I was a kid that Christmas was my best holiday.
My family and I would sit by the fireplace, drinking some hot chocolate with those tiny marshmallows, telling stories, and watching “It’s a wonderful life.” My dad would tell us stories from his childhood about how Christmas was done in the ’60s, and in the morning, we would all sit under the Christmas tree exchanging gifts. It didn’t matter what gift you got; it was awesome!
This is what Christmas should be all about.
A few months ago, a 10-year-old almost broke the internet with her Christmas list. She had requested her dad for the following;
- iPhone 11
- Air pods.
- New MacBook.
- A real bunny.
- Gucci slides.
- American girl doll, etc.
The list was long and endless, and to think that this is a 10-year-old!
I can’t help but wonder, has the real meaning of Christmas completely eluded us? Has Christmas become more commercialized, rather than a family-centered holiday? And why is there so much pressure around Christmas and thanksgiving? Where did we go wrong?
Why Finding Joy is Not Easy
“Tis the season to be jolly.” But is it really? Most people are unhappy during the holiday season, and yet it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
The reason behind this is simply – STRESS!
According to a survey done by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said that their stress levels increased more during the holidays. Another survey said that 53% of people felt financially stressed when the holidays approached due to their holiday spending.
It is actually believed that suicide rates peak over the holidays.
So, the bottom line is that people feel stressed during the holidays because there is a façade they want to put on. And really the biggest problem is that they do not really have enough money they want for the holidays.
Here are a few reasons why money causes people to get overly stressed over the holidays;
We want to have the perfect holiday; we want to visit our family members and buy them the most extravagant gifts they have ever seen. We also want to show off in front of other family members.
No expectations, no disappointments – Eric Jerome Dickey, Sleeping with strangers
But the traditional image of what Christmas should be is incredibly optimistic, and it portrays a cozy and cheerful home that is tastefully decorated, surrounded by snow and smoke on the chimney. Family members are supposed to gather together and share home-cooked meals. This is the picture-perfect Christmas postcard.
Life has become too complex and messy that all we are looking forward to during Christmas is what we can get.
These unrealistic expectations inadvertently lead to stress. People end up accumulating more debt during the holidays than ever before. And because stores are aware of this, they tend to give you the kind of offers you have never seen.
You forget that they have been working towards these offers all year round, which means that they already planned for it in advance, but you are lied into believing that they have once-in-a-lifetime kind of offers and you end up spending all your money and once that is all gone, you borrow.
Family is yet another reason that causes people to become stressed during the holidays.
Holidays are times to spend with family. This is when you go home and see your folks. But, if you have ever watched any family movie, you know that whenever people go home for the holidays, they almost always end up fighting with their family members.
But, isn’t this the case in real life? Don’t you find that when you are in the same house with your sisters, brothers, aunties, and uncles, you tend just to find yourselves fighting? Don’t even get me started on the kind of drama that happens with mothers and daughters.
They could literally burn down the house.
So, why does this happen so often? Could it be because you are all jealous of each other? Could it be that you are all different, and now that you are older, your personalities are always clashing?
Finding a safe ground during family gatherings is what is needed. Remember that you are family, and regardless of how different your opinions are, you must get along.
My advice would be to try and respect each other, and just patiently accommodate one another until the holiday season is over.
Here’s How to Find Joy During This Holiday Season:
Avoid the “Happiness” trap
One of the primary sources of stress during the holidays is “The pressure to be jolly.” Everyone expects you to be happy, and when you are with family, you are supposed to keep smiling and showing everyone how happy you are.
You are setting yourself up with high expectations, and unfortunately, it may come back to bite you.
The happiness trap is when you try too hard to be happy that you end up making yourself miserable.
There are very many issues during the holidays that can lead you to be unhappy such as money worries, as I have mentioned above, gift-giving, family get-together, etc. The hassles of traveling also take a toll on you, and you may end up extremely frustrated.
So, what you need to do is take a step back and admit that you are a little bit stressed. Try to calm yourself down. You don’t have to show everyone how happy you are if you are not really happy. It is wise to talk to a family member you
trust about how you are feeling, so you can try to sort out your issues.
In fact, sometimes just talking about it, and allowing yourself to feel lousy can go a long way into improving your mood. You may find that you are not the only one.
Things don’t really have to be perfect
Isn’t it funny that some of the most memorable holidays were when you burnt the turkey, or everyone suffered food poisoning, or when you all arrived late for dinner and mom was so mad she didn’t give anyone food?
Mistakes are what make everything fun. Expecting your holiday season to go on without a hitch is an unrealistic expectation, and you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Do not stretch yourself so thin that you leave no time for fun. Waking up at 4 am to start on dinner is simply wrong, and by the time the day is over, you will be so tired that you won’t even get to enjoy your family at all.
We do live in an imperfect world, and things are bound to go wrong at one time or the other.
Don’t overstress yourself with perfection. It cannot be done, and you will end up regretting why you did not take a minute to rest.
Manage family members that are bound to make you crazy
In a perfect world, everyone would be filled with joy and the holiday spirit, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Dealing with family members can be extremely stressful, and learning how to deal with them will help you find your joy during the holidays.
Keep your distance from that uncle who always acts obnoxious and that cousin who is always asking for money. If you don’t succeed at this and you find yourself almost snapping, simply excuse yourself and take a break from everything.
This will certainly fill you with lots of joy this holiday season. Give back. Go to the homeless shelter and volunteer. Give clothes and toys you do not use to goodwill. Giving back always leaves you feeling great about yourself and puts you in the holiday spirit.
You could also volunteer at the local hospital, buy some food for a homeless man, visit the children’s clinic, etc.
Yes, I know it’s the holidays, and this time should be filled with joy, and yes, yes, yes, but. Sometimes it’s good to say no when you feel that people are asking too much from you.
You don’t have to go on that trip with your colleagues, you don’t have to go on holiday with your friends, and neither do you have to go see that aunty that always says mean things about you with your family members.
Finding joy and peace could mean saying no to things that will bring you nothing but stress.
Do not abandon your healthy eating habits
Just because it’s the holidays and food is all over doesn’t mean that you should be care-free and eat till you burst. No. control yourself. Do not overindulge because you shall only end up frustrated with yourself in January when you shall be carrying around that holiday weight.
Here are some suggestions;
- Try having a healthy snack before the parties begin, so you are halfway full and do not end up overeating.
- Get lots and lots of sleep.
- Incorporate physical exercise even when on holiday.
Take some time for yourself
You can still manage to take a breather even if your home is full of people, and you are spending all your time entertaining and cooking.
Spend 15 minutes by yourself without any children around, and no distractions from anyone to refresh and rejuvenate so you can be your usual cheerful self.
Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us.- David Cameron
Clear your mind and find something that will help reduce your stress by slowing down your breathing and restoring the functioning of your brain.
Here are some tips;
- Take a walk by yourself.
- Listen to some soothing music.
- Go for a massage.
- Read a book.
Keep things simple
Keep everything simple during the holidays. This will help you avoid disappointments when things do not work out.
It is actually not a bad idea to spend the holidays with your immediate family if previous years had been spent with large gatherings.
If you feel that you do not have the energy to travel home and spend the holidays with everyone, then that is okay. You do not need to feel guilty about it.
Your children and your spouse are enough. You can make it up to your family members in the following years. Your peace of mind is much more important.
Let go and forgive
This is extremely important. In order to find your peace and joy during this holiday season, consider letting go of past hurts, resentment, anger, sadness and frustrations and simply let go.
It doesn’t matter what someone did to you, and it really doesn’t help to carry that around. Not only will it lead to stress, ulcers, and heartache, but it will also make your holiday unbearable.
The site of someone who hurt you can cause you to feel the hurt all over again.
So, in order to find your joy this holiday season, consider forgiving someone who hurt you. Don’t wait for them to come and apologize, just forgive and move on.
Finally, finding joy during the holidays should not be hard as this is a time to celebrate. Take control of the holiday season, and do not let the holidays control you.
Don’t let them become something you dread, and instead take the necessary steps I have outlined above to enjoy yourself and prevent depression from messing up with the time you should be spending with your family. No matter how they are, the family will always be family, and the sooner you find ways of coping with their diverse personalities and views, the better.
One thing you should consider is doing away with the gift-giving tradition if all it does is cause stress. I mean, who said that you must exchange gifts? You can decide not to do it, since it causes too much drama, and simply enjoy time with your loved ones.