Although I have been mostly lucky to have had primarily good and enjoyable holiday seasons, it would be remiss of me to not address the pressure and depression many feel around the holidays. It is tough for many. Of course the most obvious are the homeless, the poor, single people, and the elderly. Throw in the fact that 90% of the human population comes from dysfunctional families and wow! You have millions of people struggling to balance ‘cheer’ with sheer frustration and feelings of failure.
What can I tell you? Do I have glossy words to smooth it all over and make it all ok? Nope! As a counselor, I never sugar coat it. I cut to the chase. It saves people time and money, and they get results faster. As pragmatist and a realist, I will tell you that I hardly read any run of the mill self-help books. I do research and see what resonates and what works. You have to make your own fun. You have to put your best foot forward and make the best of it.
Find your “safe group of people.” If this means cutting out certain family members who you simply cannot tolerate…then do it and save yourself the headache. For years I struggled to make nice nice with my mother who hates Christmas, and my sister who loves to antagonize me. I am done! I cannot tell you the relief I feel.
My boyfriend had a meltdown, before the holidays. I feel bad for him that he is in such a rut, but I simply cannot drown in misery with him. I made plans to spend time with friends whom I can rely on to be cheerful and fun, and who want to enjoy the season with me. He was not interested in any of it.
Blithering on about gratitude when you are struggling with mixed emotions is not necessarily a bad idea. What works better, is to acknowledge what worked, what did not work, and to set realistic goals for the day, for the week, for the month, and for the year.
I will not tell you to reminisce about all the fabulous “hard lessons” you learned over the past year. I have an unquenched thirst for knowledge and I am greedy for information about things that fascinate me. I simply do not have time to ruminate about all the “crappy lessons” I have learned. Boring! If you want to do that, go for it. I never find it helpful. People know what they did wrong and what feels right, good, altruistic, and philanthropic. I may recount examples with clients, but I NEVER use the words “what did you learn?” It is condescending and treats adults like idiots or children. I give people a lot more credit than that. I give people concrete tools! Tools work.
Finally, feeling pitiful and having a pity party is “masturbating misery. ” Also boring and self indulgent in a really bad way! Get over “it.” Get over yourself and accept your depression and do something about it. Whether it be meds, or finding a support group. Doing nothing productive to change it begets more misery and it is a waste of time.
So if you have a decent place to live, a warm bed, enough food to eat and some good friends. Decide how you want to spend your holidays. Accept your feelings and know that if you feel bad, you can do something about it. For those less fortunate, I send out the warmest wishes of all. That they be blessed in the most magical way possible to lift them out of their dire straits, and into a better position in life. Many warm wishes to all.
-Aura Walker MA CHt (310) 382-6313