When It Becomes the Not-So-Happy-Holidays

Before I became a psychologist, I thought the holidays were only times of great joy. I looked forward to them with great anticipation, eagerly awaiting all the commotion.
Now, however, I realize that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a very painful time for so many people. For them, the holidays are a time of increased isolation and despair. As some of us talk about whom we will visit and how we will juggle multiple invitations, others wish they had even one place to go. As some of us complain that our in-laws want to see us, others wish they had in-laws. As some of us complain that our children will visit in-laws, others wish they had children. There is no one single cause of the pain people feel during this time of year. The pain they are in reflects their unfulfilled wishes, their dreams that – due to no fault of their own – cannot be realized, and their hopes that are fading with each passing day.

Given this reality, what can we do to help make this season more joyful for ourselves and for others? I propose that this holiday season we all do our best to turn our burdens into someone else’s joy.

This concept is not intuitive. After all, our burdens, our pains, are not things we tend to think are worth sharing with others. That’s because we see those burdens from our own vantage point; seeing it from someone else’s can make all the difference. Some examples will help:

  • If you cannot spend a holiday with someone because you are accepting a different invitation, tell him or her when you will visit and that whenever you are with them, it is a holiday (http://real-matters.com/?p=27).
  • If one of your holiday guests is your burden, treat that person as if you have never met and try to get to know them. Perhaps a new relationship will develop as you listen to new stories rather than focusing on the old ones.
  • If you have no children, help someone who does. Offer to watch their children while they prepare for the holiday. If you don’t know someone with children, volunteer at a center that will have a holiday party for children in need. Volunteer to bring food to parents whose child is hospitalized.
  • If you are overwhelmed with the children you have, ask someone who longs for children, to help you. If you know that you will complain that you have no room in your refrigerator or freezer for your left over food, don’t cook it – donate it to a food bank.
  • If you will be alone for the holiday, spend it with someone else who would be alone, but not for your offer to spend it with them.

No matter what your situation is, giving of self will increase your connection to others and connection is the key to joy, not just over the holidays – but any day.

10 thoughts on “When It Becomes the Not-So-Happy-Holidays

  1. What such a warm message.
    This is a good topic. I have not think of it in such way as you described it. I have seen many people in need and in pain that it makes me think and to do something for them, so that I can help. Many people get sad because of the holidays, ones missing their families, others not having whom to be with and others just because loneliness, but as you said, we can help. There are many ways in which can do so. Helping is something indescribable, just by helping someone in any way we can help others.
    What we can do Pray for each other, so that these upcoming dates can be of joy and live grateful everyday, others did not see today, yesterday could be their last breath or even today, so we have life, we have our 5 senses, which are very necessary. We might not have everything that we want, but at least what we need. God bless everyone and be this year of abundant peace.

  2. I totally agree with the holiday season being one of the stressful seasons out there. Not only do you have to find gifts for everyone that will satisfy them, college students have to go through the stress of finals. As a child one of my favorite times of the year was Christmas time.Everything about it made me smile, but now I don’t even have the time to go teach my seven year old cousin how to ice skate. With the content worry of if I’m going to pass or am I going to fail my classes take out all of the joy and beauty out from the holiday season that i should be spending with loved ones.

  3. For kids that have divorced parents it can be a struggle to spend time with all loved ones without feeling as if you’ve left someone out. Making a large family dinner can cause stress during the holidays.

  4. So touching. Totally agree that thanksgiving can be a time of sorrow for some and a time of joy at the same time for others. It is quite relatable, based on my passed experiences, being an immigrant with very few family around me at the time.However, the people who are privileged to have their family around at this time of year can find a local church or community center in their local community and make it be a time to give and show some empathy to the less fortunate.

  5. Holidays are very joyful and as joyful as they can be, the holidays are also so stressing, I stress so much about the holidays. I like to cook a specialty on holidays so I always worry on what I should cook, to what I should wear, to what time will we start celebrating to if I’m going to work or not in the morning and get over time. It does take the fun and joyful moments out of the holidays because of how stress I get. For example this semester I’m taking 5 classes. EVERY week I have a quiz and every other I have two tests. Not only am I stress about school but work too. My job pays well but it’s also very demanding with all these mandatory modules, re-certifications, meetings, events and dead lines. How does this relates to the holidays? A lot. How can I enjoy the holidays when I’m constantly busy doing other school or work things. Oh and my family? They always want to do EVERYTHING. So trough out this I begin to stress holidays weeks before so I can have a plan set in my head and won’t be too overwhelmed. Ha. It never works. Last minute I tend to get holidays preparations done. For example yesterday I just put the tree up but haven’t bough anyone a present because I had to work double shifts to complete my hours at work so I can have off this week and study for finals. My last final is Thursday and Christmas Eve is Saturday. So thank god at least ill have two stressful days ( Friday and Saturday morning) to get everything done but do you see what I mean? The holidays caused stress on me that takes the joy out of me. However once its time to celebrate and I accomplish everything then I can actually relax and enjoy holidays with my family because to realized how lucky someone is to celebrate the holidays with your family is a blessing. That’s when everything turn around and the holidays due end up being Joyful.

  6. I 100% agree with this topic because for me, Christmas is my favorite holiday because I love the snow, I love the atmosphere of it, and it is the time where my whole family gets together and opens gifts. The only problem for this year is that I have no time to think about Christmas due to all the finals, papers, and even my job. I believe once this semester is done for, then I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas without any stress from school or anything else.

  7. Very realistic approach on the holiday season, because although many love this time of year because of family get together’s and spending time with family, many people do not have a lot family or even a few people to spend the holidays with. Especially people with separated parents, it could often put a great deal of stress on the parents, and the children involved. As said Helping people by inviting them over if they are lonely, or making amends with people is definitely a good idea for the holidays

  8. I agree with this post because the holidays make us realize that we should appreciate the ones around us although we forget we should appreciate them all the time. We should try to help our peers in tim of need, even without asking. We should be there for the ones we love even if we feel our world is falling apart.

  9. I would have to say that when I was a child Christmas was always my favorite time of year. Having my parents divorced I always would get double the presents and thought that was the best part. However, as you get older you see all the stress that it has to bring with it. For myself I have always stressed with coming up with gift ideas for everyone because I want to always please people. I have to make sure I spend time with both parents but separately. Now that I am recently married my husband and I came up with a plan we would spend christmas eve with my mother and christmas day with my father so both parents are happy. We both enjoy doing that and try not to think about the little stressors that come with the holidays. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t speak to his family so the holidays for him are upsetting but he now has my family and they treat him like a son.

  10. This is a very nice thought. People never realize the importance of things they are blessed with. A person’s need never ends. The fulfillment of one need will never make them happy, it is just the start of another need. A person with a bike is not happy with the bike, he needs a car. A person with a normal car need a more expensive car to be happy. But what about a person without leg, he doesn’t need a car or a bike to be happy, he just need a pair of legs to be happy. But are all the people with leg happy? Happiness varies from person to person because every person’s needs are different. Now a days happiness is considered as the fulfillment of more and more needs. People are unable to see what they are blessed with. They keep on searching for new things. It is the responsibility of each individual to be happy with what they have. Try to be thankful for what you have than to complain for what you don’t have. I am blessed with a family. I am thankful to God for my family. Take a minute and look at ourselves and try to find the small happiness you are blessed with. Because, at the end when you look back at your life, you will still be unhappy even though you achieved a lot. Nothing in this world can make you unhappy, because it is you who decides what you want to be.

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