Although Christmas is a heart-warming time to celebrate with friends and family, the holidays can be super stressful for many people, especially for midlifers who – under these circumstances- may feel more aware of time passing by as they get older. Amongst paying for gifts, visiting relatives, and grieving over those who are no longer around the jolliest time of year, the festive season can trigger a reaction of sad nostalgia for many.
What’s more, because we are expected to love Christmas and embrace all things about it, anyone who doesn’t is quickly labelled a Grinch and advised to keep their views to themselves so that they don’t ruin a magical time for others.
If thoughts of the Holidays cause you to feel down and make you want to sleep until mid-January, know you’re not alone. Unrealistic expectations (we all have visions of what think Christmas should be), financial problems, loneliness, a sense of obligations, the world events (the current pandemic might be a good example) are amongst the most common reasons for the holiday blues.
According to Danielle Forshee, PsyD, LCSW, a relationship therapist in New Jersey and New York, “It’s common to feel low around the holidays. For example, you might have negative thoughts reflections and feelings about what you have, or what you wish you had. Or, if you’ve recently lost a loved one or are going through a transition time, it can make you feel down. It really does cause people to be vulnerable to falling into a slump or depression“.
But you might dislike Christmas also because you find it over the top; it’s expensive, it’s sometimes false and artificial, it’s become too commercial, it’s so visible and audible, and it’s everywhere. Plus those around you are saying you must have fun. You must enjoy it. You must join in. It can grate a little!
So, what can we do? “Mustering and re-thinking might help“, says Carrie Barron, M.D., the Director of the Creativity for Resilience Program at Dell Medical School in Austin. “Maybe there are places to explore, emotional risks that are worth taking, or people in need whom you can help. Volunteering in a soup kitchen or delivering baskets is one way. Reaching out to those in your midst is another. Sometimes those who appear to have it all struggle with despair in private. Maybe there is a malaise, maybe something happened. Your gesture could make a difference“.
Also, if Christmas reminds you of a depressing past, you can always take steps to create pleasant memories for the future by beginning a new tradition that is unique for you and your immediate family.
But what if you are proud of being a Grinch? Nothing stops you to be open about it. However, know that encouraging others to respect your viewpoint will require you to ensure your communication skills are in tip-top condition – assertive but not aggressive, open but not judgemental. Face your friends and family with a decision of what you are prepared to do. Find what you hate most and try to delegate it to someone else, and do stuff you tolerate the best. Make deals.
Because Christmas is for all.