Tis the Season to be Jolly?

But what if it isn’t?  Now what do you do?

By Andy West

More than at any other time of the year, the Christmas season may provide challenges to us – we remember a parent who died, we are lonely with no one to share the season with, we lost a job with no prospects for funds to buy gifts . . . the list can go on and on.  Know that feelings of depression, fatigue, and loneliness can occur at any age and may be triggered by various reasons.  Here are some suggestions that may help you and your family prepare for Jesus’ birth in a healthy way.

By Andy West

Develop a budget for all the expenses that may include gifts, parties, travel.  What about handmade gifts by the children for family and friends or gifts from the kitchen for the neighbors? Have you thought about ‘regifting” an item that is tucked away in your closet, unused?  Do the kids have too many stuffed animals, those in good condition may find a new home with another child who doesn’t have any.

“Secret Santa” gifts are always fun and putting a dollar limit on them makes it even funnier for family or neighborhood parties.

Think about your extended family.  We all know that every family member may not agree with our views on politics, child rearing, spiritual beliefs . . .  This may be a time to take some topics “off the table” when you are celebrating.  Don’t feel obligated to do things that you don’t want to do just because someone else plans it.  Limit your time with family or friends if there is some conflict issues that you can’t avoid.  Remember, you pleasing everyone all the time is an impossible job.

Be aware of overindulgence.  The holidays are a time to eat more rich food and increase our consumption of alcoholic beverages while neglecting physical activity; this may result in feelings of guilt as we take the second or third piece of candy.  That is not to say don’t enjoy all those yummy cookies and desserts but limit yourself, one veggie plate selection gets you one cookie.  The key is not to eliminate the “good food” entirely and feel that you are missing out but to pace yourself for the days ahead and schedule activity and “alone” time to balance the party time.

Think about what needs to get done and make a planning list.  Pace yourself. Prioritize the list, eliminate things that aren’t important and enlist the whole family in completing the tasks on the list.

Let the children pick the tasks they can do and encourage them to do it their way.  Grandma’s gift wrapped by her grandchild means much more to her than a perfectly wrapped one from the store.  Having the children involved in making the cookies for the neighbors and delivering them adds meaning to the season for those children.

Consider a “Cookie Exchange” with neighbors – everyone brings 4 dozen cookies, some to eat at the party and the rest to mix and match with others.  This give you a variety of cookies while only requiring you to make one batch!

Take care of your own mental health.  Feelings of loneliness and isolation become much more evident during the holidays.  If you don’t have a family or your family lives far away, consider starting a winter hobby, join a new group, volunteer at a non-profit, or look for free holidays activities in your community.

If you are experiencing some negative feelings, ask for help; the holidays are a tough time for people without families to share the season.  If you have experienced a loss during the year, acknowledge that this year the holiday season will not be the same.  Think about creating new traditions.

Spend time with supportive and caring people who understand – you may need to reach out to them by asking them over for “tea and cookies”.

Consider a “Year-End Reflection” activity.  This is a wonderful way to acknowledge what has changed the past year and what has stayed the same.  Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.

Look to the future on what possibilities are open for you – starting a new hobby, developing a new activity, finding new ways to relax, making new friends, volunteering in a new agency, or picking a new travel destination.  Reflection gives you time to consider what was great about last year and what wasn’t. Discard the “duds” and think about expanding the great things for the year ahead.

Advent is the season to prepare for Christ’ birth.  God’s angel announced His birth to the shepherds.  “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them . . . and said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

(Luke 2: 9-10)

Let us not be afraid to show God’s love to others during this season of celebration and the year ahead.

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