For many people the holidays are “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”1 The wrapping up of the year with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a special season in multiple ways. In addition to the historical and religious aspects of the holidays, many people also enjoy the breaking from routine, celebrating and coming together with friends and family. Though I am very much a fan of all of these things, I think it is also worthwhile to acknowledge some of the ways in which the holidays and/or post-holidays can be stressful.2
For some, the holidays can be one of the more painful times of the year due to any number of reasons: family difficulties, reminders of lost loved ones, difficult financial circumstances, etc. In short, if you’re already feeling down the enthusiasm of the holidays can feel almost cruel. When this is the case, what follows may only partially apply.
For others, it is a wonderful time of the year, and part of what makes it wonderful is the fact that we do break from our normal routines.3 This change, like all changes, does bring some stress with it. I think that by acknowledging the ways in which the holidays might be stressful, and having compassion on ourselves, we can more readily embrace the sweet and wonderful things about the holidays, as well as better move forward into the new year.
Here are some of the things that are potentially different about the holidays:
- time with others
- time alone
- activities engaged in
- tasks accomplished
- sleep patterns
- eating habits
- exercise routines
Depending on your personality, various relationships and life circumstances any of the above may be welcome changes or stressful ones. Most likely you had a mix of both this past holiday season. Perhaps you were able to get more sleep, but you did not get some things done that you wish. Or maybe you thoroughly enjoyed visiting with family, but feel a bit worn out from travel and sluggish from so much holiday food and so little exercise.
Perhaps for you the stress and/or disappointment comes more as you return to life post-holidays. You might wish that you could have another few weeks to visit with loved ones and/or rest and/or engage in fun activities. Maybe your job is one which you find it difficult to thrive in, and the holidays offer you a welcome break from that reminder. Or maybe the holidays just weren’t what you wished they would be and you feel let down now that they’re over. You can mix and match the above list in all kinds of ways. The take-home point is that if you were feeling out of sorts over the holidays and/or post-holidays, there are probably understandable reasons for that.
Here are some things that you might need as you process what was or was not wonderful about the holidays and/or post-holidays for you:
- understanding and compassion from others and from yourself
- time to think
- time to get some things done
- light, easy, superficial relating with a variety of people
- deep, personal relating with one or two key people
- permission to be happy, sad, frustrated, elated, etc.
- permission to be where you are emotionally, mentally and physically
The holidays bring changes and whether your experience of those changes was wonderful or not, it is good to have compassion on ourselves (and others) when those changes bring stress. When having compassion on yourself or others is easier said then done, counseling might be a helpful resource for you.
- From The Andy Williams Christmas Album. ↩
- Image from It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. ↩
- Related Posts by Sean Slevin: Study Finds that Predictable, Required Time Off Reaps Big Benefits, The Art of Stopping. ↩
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