Despite the joy of the season and with all of its good cheer and merriment, most of us find only shifting spurts of jolliness here and there during the holidays. Of course, this oftentimes is self-imposed, with the expectations of “doing it all”, like putting up the most awesome Christmas tree and lights, doing cookie and candy exchanges, sending packed Christmas letters, and buying the right presents for everyone and their brother, and making sure this Christmas is the best one for the kids. Too much of a good thing, I suppose, sometimes.
But, how about those dear people who find this time fraught with sadness? There are all sorts of reasons or situations that preclude some from the Christmas spirit, be it lingering loneliness with a lack of family connection or close friends, the reality of setting the table for one less person due to a loss in the recent or remote past, being paled with increased pain and suffering from surging medical issues, having no money, or dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder whose vision is shadowed by dark colored glasses. ‘Tis the season to be joyful, with fistfuls of love and compassion thrown out to all who can grasp it, like candy at a parade; it is part of the Christmas spirit! Yet, sadness can be spotted any which way you look during the holiday season, if we choose to see it.
Spite our nose and off our face, most of us have “good reason” for keeping those fistfuls of love clutched in our own hands. Oftentimes, we become discombobulated with our own list of “must do’s”, putting off the other list of “extra’s” or niceties until the end, if there is time. And, then there are those awkward moments that keep us from reaching out to help a stranger; “What should I do? What if my approach is wrong? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if they think I’m nosy? Would my effort even be worth it? What if I offend them when I try to help?”. So, on with our traditions; celebrate with our spurts of joy as we rejoice in the season of Christmas, and leave well enough alone, right? Still, for many of us, there is that looming sadness underneath it all that just stays inside.
And in our silent ways, we all know that somehow, during the holiday season, giving out love and touching someone who needs it, seeing the joy in their face and feeling a little shiver inside, has to be one of the greatest gifts of all? So, what does all this mean anyways?
And, you may wonder what this has to do with good mental health during the Christmas season. You guessed it; it has everything to do with it! Feeling good, doing good, feeling loved and giving love makes it all better for most.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW