Because the holiday season is both exciting and hectic, it is important to maintain a sense of balance and not allow the demands and frantic pace to overwhelm. Practicing good self-care during this time is not only advised – it is critical. It is also important to keep aware of ways to minimize difficult emotional stressors. The term “holiday blues syndrome” describes the downside of holiday occasions. It refers to the psychological problems such as depression that intensifies due to the failed expectations and the extreme stress created by the increase in demands.
Christmas shopping in the U.S. has been a reliable source of anxiety and stress for over a century. In 1894, The New York Tribune wrote: “As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten, the great question of buying Christmas presents begins to take the terrifying shape it has come to assume in recent years.” While this comment was made over one hundred years ago, the modern holiday season has often become more of a burden than an opportunity for joy and celebration. We overspend and over commit in many ways.
While there is joy in giving, the act of giving itself is the most important component of this season. However, there is considerable emotional pressure to flock to the malls or surf the internet, credit cards in hand to find perfect gifts. Finding that ideal gift is hard and forty percent of Americans report returning or “regifting” at least one gift each season. An alternative could be to emotionally focus on others and offer gifts of your time and gestures of caring.
Within a family, emotional gifts such as: a brother completing a chore for his sister, a daughter giving a dad a letter of gratitude, a mom setting aside a special “date” with her son, or a husband giving a gift of time for a special request from his wife; are important alternatives to the traditional store bought gestures. These thoughtful gifts of time and energy can be the most special of the holiday and are sure to generate the warmest feelings of appreciation.
Giving unselfishly is good for each of us emotionally and an important lesson to teach children. Focusing on the opportunities for giving to others outside the family can be a family experience. Cultivating a philanthropic perspective takes time, and children learn best by getting involved in charitable activities at an early age. The holidays are a time for family members and friends to reconnect with one another. Special family traditions are an important part of this season. This season, don’t forget the great gift you can offer together - -your time.
Support the organizations and causes you care about. Visits to local assisted living facilities or nursing homes, making cookies for your local firehouse or police station, donating good used toys or clothes to a shelter, and donating military care packages are all excellent ways to focus on others during this time of year or throughout the year.
Giving of self to others is one way to manage the stress of this season and to protect from the emotional difficulties many experience during the hectic holiday season. No matter what feelings the holidays bring up for you, remember you are in charge of your life. You needn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to this time of year. Celebrate in your way. It is important to set appropriate expectations for the season and focus on the things that really matter.