Editor’s note: The column below, written by clinical therapist Tony Rankin, is part of the Baptist and Reflector’s “Dealing with holiday stress” package that was published in the Dec. 6 print edition. More from Rankin is available directly below the column.
Although there are some losses that make the holidays difficult, there are several other things to consider that may elicit emotions.
The schedule breaks of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays allow us to change pace and slow down from our ordinary routines, then we try to fill up our days that are intended for rest, relaxation and family with shopping, over-doing, cleaning, over-eating, over-decorating and trying to get to everybody’s house and parties.
Sometimes we even have to force ourselves to take unused vacation days so we don’t lose them.
The holidays seem to invite most persons to try to impress others and family members with gifts they don’t need and we can’t afford.
What would happen if we spent the time we spend at malls and large shopping stores with our loved ones, talking to friends and relatives on the phone or through e-mail, or doing for persons that are needy? What type of satisfaction would we feel and how much better would our families be as well as those who are less fortunate?
Holiday music elicits emotions that we rarely feel during the previous months. Caring lyrics and soothing music, the promises of spending time together and laughing, giving and loving, and familiar tunes and memorized lyrics from childhood help us experience pleasant moments and reflect on our meaningful past holidays.
The holidays remind us that the end of the year is approaching. This allows us to assess how well we have done during the year at our jobs, our relationships and our attempts to improve our lives.
Thanksgiving and Christmas push us toward making new resolutions for the upcoming year which almost always causes us to take a hard look at our losses, shortcomings, and deficiencies and make us consider new goals and plans that may not be completely obtainable.
Maybe there are plenty of reasons that cause us to be more emotional during this time of year. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, either. Enjoy the season that causes us to be vulnerable. B&R
The acrostic below, created by Tony Rankin, provides insight on ways to make the most of the holiday season:
H — Have hope in something other than what you can buy. Our society places too much emphasis on gadgets, items that make us look and feel better, and things that connect us to groups of people that make us feel more accepted- and none of these “things” matter in the long run. Find hope in the Christ who loves you unconditionally and “just because.”
O — Overlook unintentional mistakes. Some things need to be confronted and corrected, but so many other things need to be dismissed as meaningless, mistakes or unimportant. The manager forgets to show you the pizza before you leave the carry-out counter during “a rush” (but the sign says, “If we don’t show you your pizza — it’s FREE!), the cashier accidentally forgets to scan your coupon, your child leaves their lunch in the back seat of your car, or your aunt forgot to send you the annual holiday letter, but your other cousins got theirs last week. Relax over the insignificant issues.
L — Love others because they are human. Don’t worry about their imperfections, shortcomings, “bad days,” skin color or accent, and their difficult attitudes. At times, you are all of these things, too — to somebody. God loves us in spite of our humanness and expects us to do likewise. Aren’t you glad you are loved by Him, and He knows everything about you!
I — Ignore annoying and obnoxious people. It seems that the holidays bring out the best and worst in people. Our emotions are more heightened, we have more to do than usual and forget how long it takes us to get ready for everything. People drive more erratically (except for us!) and become irritable at the least little thing. There are some persons that want you to be miserable because they are. Some individuals become grumpier during the holidays while others just continue their same old patterns in spite of the meaningful season.
D — Do something daily that makes you laugh or have fun. As the year comes to a close there is more opportunity to enjoy life — parties, food at work, games, cards, and the chance to tell stories (Ones with meaning and the hilarious ones, too!) Give yourself the daily gift of enjoyment.
A — Appreciate anybody who helps make your life better. Tell your neighbor, the tellers at the bank, the person who cuts your hair, the teenager that bags your groceries, the clerk who helps you find the item you can’t locate, your children’s’ teachers, the staff at church, the policeman, etc. This should keep you busy and it might help you decrease your negativity about busyness. Be grateful for those who help you and may feel taken for granted.
Y — You never know what you say that impacts somebody’s life. This is a good time of year to be thankful for persons that have impacted you (or maybe even your life!) Additionally, realize that everything you say to individuals may be remembered forever. Avoid harsh emotional language. Be kind and encouraging with your words. Be remembered!
S — Savor the moment; you will never have this one again! Wouldn’t it be nice to be guaranteed 95 years of healthy loving? All persons experience loss whether it is through death, divorce, job displacement, economic catastrophe, difficult children, resentment or unfortunate events. Waiting for “next year,” “a raise,” “better more than worse,” “the cure,” or “when they move out” only robs you of the present. Find ways to enjoy what you have currently, and try not to let your desires for the future overwhelm your todays. Stop — and enjoy the holidays. We have a Reason to do that: He was found lying in a manger. — Rankin is a minister and licensed therapist.
Surviving the holiday blues
• Understand the “realness” of the holidays
• Prepare for selected memories and stabbing pains (Don’t deny the past).
• Be aware of the “poor pitiful me” syndrome
• Be careful who you blame the “junk” on (That person is probably not around anymore.)
• Send cards to people that have helped you
• Do something for somebody else (maybe bake cookies for the fire hall, prepare dinner for somebody less fortunate, help with a “Room at the Inn” program or the Salvation Army for the homeless.)
• Avoid the “old place” or the “same ole routine” (Buy new lights, hang a new ornament, tell new stories in addition to sharing memories.)
• Get involved with others (Visit decorated holiday venues, do church activities with friends, drive around to see the lights, walk the malls, attend local school programs.)
• Start new traditions (Plant a live tree, give a tree away, do for another family or person, read about and celebrate “Christmas Around the World,” or celebrate for an entire week — open a present every day for a week.)
• Receive counseling for your loss or struggle (It could be a gift from you, to you).
— Tony Rankin