Let The Lights of the Season Burn Bright
Not Burn You Out
December is the month that Christmas songs take over our shopping experience and put us in the mood for peppermint mochas, baking cookies and decking the halls with all the trimmings. Christmas isn’t the only holiday that keeps us, or our neighbors, busy though. December also incudes Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and our ever favorite (and almost universal) New Years eve. Whichever holiday that you’re personally involved in (or the multiple ones!), make sure that you’ve taken care of yourself. We all know someone who runs themselves ragged trying to make everything perfect this time of year—and if you don’t, congratulations: it’s you! You go, Glen Coco!
Between shopping to get gifts for friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, teachers…the list goes on…to making sure you’re making it to every event you have organized or been invited to (while looking startlingly fabulous): you’re going to need a moment. Here’s a few reminders to avoid becoming The Grinch, and to shake off the “bah-humbugs” that can mire the festive spirit.
Make sure that you’re not just participating in the holiday: be present in it. Take time to stop trying to manufacture the feeling or perfect the production and presentation of the events. Take a deep breath, have a sip of mulled wine, disregard the calories in your favorite cookie and eat one: and enjoy your family and friends.
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind,” Kris Kringle reminds us as we rewatch Miracle on 34th Street.
The commercialized pressure of the perfect Christmas gathering is just that: it presents the perfect picture, not the real one. There’s going to be things that go wrong, the turkey won’t be timed perfectly and the mashed potatoes may end up being a little on the cool side by the time the turkey is done. People will still happily eat those, don’t worry. (If they’re complaining—direct them to the microwave).
The thing to remember is that you cared enough to make the spread, or that you brought your famous cookies, or that you stopped off and got that bottle of cheap wine to share with your cousins. Or maybe it’s just that you were able to show up! That alone can be hard if you’re working, traveling, or homebound.
The lake-effected weather is about to take a turn and remind us that we really are all in this together. Blankets and jackets will be coming out of their places in storage, if they haven’t already made their season debuts.
Being polite and conscious of those around us who are also stressed out can uplift ourselves and elevate the overall mood of a tense situation. A little kindness, even a smile, can change someone’s day.
Try to plan ahead a few minutes, few days, or even a week or two, so as to minimize the last minute rushing around. They’re going to run out of Turbo Man at some point, and what really matters in the end is being there, not “this year’s” toy.
Having a positive attitude helps quite a bit this time of year, as well as remembering why we are running around stressing out: we’re trying to provide or contribute to a great holiday experience for our families. If there is something that helps remind you or gives you a feeling of love and joy, focus on that in times of strain.
This time of year, the stress and strain, not to mention the inclusivity that is craved (or the familial rifts that are highlighted) make depression and anxiety run amok. You can’t “holiday cheer” yourself out of these feelings all of the time, unfortunately, and don’t be afraid to speak to a loved one about what you’re going through. Seeking a therapist or medical treatment isn’t a sign of weakness or that you have failed at being “holiday ready,” so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You are important, and no matter how small you feel sometimes or how hard achieving goals (or even if they’ve changed as life has gone on). Clarence was a wise angel, when he told George Bailey that “no man [or woman!] is a failure who has friends.”
Being able to enjoy yourself is important too, and don’t disregard taking care of yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses. Clark W. Griswold still made the holidays work, and nearly everything went wrong there.