Holiday Cheer or Challenge

By Georgia Smith-Lyle, MA, LPC-S

Most of us growing up looked forward to the holidays. Children’s idea of the holidays and the joy they bring is far different than an adult’s perspective. I believe we all would like to maintain a childlike attitude and naivety about the holidays. As we get older, we meet life with more responsibilities and somehow most of the “cheer” in a holiday season dwindles.

The cheer is replaced with emotional, financial, and physical challenges. We may even start out the season with thanksgiving, hope and cheer in our attitudes only to meet with some reality. What about the emotional reality of trying your best to accommodate schedules? You search for the best possible way to make sure everyone gets visited or comes for a visit only to find yourself challenged and a bit stressed at making sure everyone will feel important and included. Or the emotional reality of spending on gifts beyond what your financial budget may really allow but wanting to make sure loved ones and friends know how important they are through your giving.

Then there are the physical challenges we put upon others and ourselves attempting to travel short or long distances, driving for hours or flying just to make sure we fulfill our holiday commitment. But the reality many times is the holidays can bring more stress, depression, anxiety and conflict when met with stressful challenges than the holiday cheer the season is intended to be all about!

The challenges of the holidays are also intensified trying to accommodate blended family schedules and meet the needs of the children involved. We also want to make sure the elderly and physically challenged are not left out when in fact they are forgotten about much during the year until the holidays. The stress of trying to juggle finances, your time and your emotional tank of giving can send you over the edge into anxiety, depression, fatigue and a lack of motivation. All of these negative emotions are counterproductive to “the holiday cheer” the season is mean to provide.

In spite of all the challenge, I believe most of us would agree we still look forward to the holiday but are not sure how to adjust our life, and emotional tank to meet the challenging needs these four months out of the year demands. First, we must admit a few things about what we can and cannot do during the holidays and be at peace with our decision. It may not be the decision others “expect of you,” or “require of you.” Ask yourself the pros and cons of your decisions. It is true the holidays are all about thinking of others, spending time with friends and family, and giving of yourself. But if you stretch yourself thin either emotionally, financially or trying to travel everywhere to make sure you see everyone you will defeat the purpose of the season… the holiday season is meant to bring cheer, joy and peace. You most likely will go into the new year needing a vacation from the holiday season.

I suggest you take an inventory and do a pros and cons of your decisions. Establish now what you believe is emotionally healthy for you to meet the needs of the holiday season. Remember, if you balance your own life with healthy expectations for yourself, you will be much happier and able to enjoy other’s company. You will have energy left over to enjoy life and the joyful moments each day brings. I’m not suggesting the holiday should be or even can be made stress free. That is not reality. But I am suggesting a good look at what you can and cannot do this holiday season, looking at the pros and cons and then following through with your decision. Let loved ones and friends know ahead of time your ideas about how you need to spend the holidays so that no one is taken off guard. Maybe even scheduling a get together after the first of the year or springtime for those you are not able to spend time with during the holidays. Most loved ones and friends would probably welcome and be relieved at your ideas making the holidays less of a challenge. Your ideas are mostly ones they have thought of but have not wanted to mention. I hope you find these suggestions helpful. I also hope the holiday season of 2022 leaves you happy, healthy and refreshed in every area of your life!