Nothing rouses anxiety and depression quite like the happiest time of the year. According to poll by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly three-fourths of participants reported feeling more anxious or depressed during the holiday season.*
But I don’t need no stinking studies to validate this data. All I have to do is look around at friends, family, and yep, even myself. Mea Culpa.
In other words, maybe we need to stop blaming everybody else for our misery.
We are all driving our own special Christmas Crazy Buses. Own it.
Here are some of the usual suspects that drain us of our joy:
The Ghost of Christmas Past:
- Remember how Christmas was so perfect back when…
- Mom wasn’t schtupping Frank the Fornicating Dentist?
- we were kids and everyone was always happy–especially little sister Agnes who was Mom’s favorite?
- Santa brought the best gifts–and none of them required an electrical cord or battery?
- we didn’t have to travel to Aunt Bernice’s floating tenement at the lake?
- we went to church because the pastor was cute or funny or he told great stories? (Or maybe Mom had a thing for him, too.)
- Dad wanted us to believe in Santa so he disassembled the fireplace log rack? (Man did he cuss his head off the next day when trying to put it back together.)
- it snowed overnight that year we all got sleds, saucers, snowboards, etc.?
- our cousins came to visit–along with their magical dog, Thor?
- Grandma made Green Bean Surprise and little Edgar puked his guts out?
- Dad kicked Frank’s ass when he showed up in the middle of family dinner? (He should have taken those chest pains seriously.)
Be honest with yourself. Take an inventory of those years. Times change but somehow the past always has a gilded sheen to it. Don’t let the past take the present from you. You can’t step in the same yellow snow twice. The drift always shifts.
The Ghost of Christmas Present:
- We’ve all seen the People of Walmart slideshows on social media. Clearly, those slides feature some weird people. But remember, weird is in the eye of the beholder. Last Christmas, I saw a woman buying a case of Massengill Extra Cleansing Vinegar and Water Disposable Douches. If the cashier was curious or shocked, she didn’t show it. Hey Walmart–give that woman a raise! For the rest of us waiting in those long lines, be nice to the people who wait on you. (Sing the next line in a deep voice:) Nobody knows the trouble they’ve seen.
- If someone gives you a gift that doesn’t work for you, accept it graciously–especially if the giver never seems to be able to please you. Re-gift it, donate it, or try it–you might actually like it. (I’ve been that person whose gift has always been rejected by someone I loved. It starts feeling personal after a few times.)
- If you are lucky enough to receive an annual invitation to Christmas dinner someplace other than your own home, offer to reciprocate and host for a change. Some of us would love to take a year off of entertaining duties.
- If you are hosting Christmas and unexpected guests arrive, be gracious. Nobody should be alone on the holiday. Maybe next year, you will be the one to bring a last-minute guest who has hit a rough patch in life. Or maybe you’ll be that outsider showing up and hoping for a warm welcome and a hot dinner.
The Ghost of Christmas Future:
- Plan to spread the wealth–get together with both sides (or more) of your families. Nothing says you care more than the gift of time.
- Try not to buy love. No explanation needed here, and yet it is such a common pitfall. Merry Christmas does not mean: Buy me, bring me, get me, take me…
- Keep expectations in check, but expect the unexpected–a squirrel loose in the house, an exploding tree, a kidnapping plot implemented by the family moron–it’s all fun and games until it happens to you. Don’t lose your shit over it.
As I write this annual Christmas post, I can’t help but think of three of my friends and how their holiday went last year:
- The first woman allowed her emotions to get the best of her, and she started a messy fight with her family. To be fair, there was more than enough blame to go around.
- The second woman was so overwrought when we met for a pre-Christmas lunch, she morphed from tears to crazy Lizzie Bordon somewhere between our meals and coffee.
- The third woman charged herself into a giant financial hole in an effort to win her daughters’ love as the family navigated a messy divorce.
These are all too common responses to the stress of the holidays. But how about taking a different approach? How about changing our focus?
Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birth. Instead of turning it into Gift-a-Palooza, Family-Feud, or a real-life Stephen King novel, how about approaching December 25th as a time to serve, love, and yes–forgive. No helmet required.
But even so, if you can’t help but drive the crazy bus, pick up the Bible and read Luke, Chapters One and Two. May it remind you of the reason for the season.
God bless you and yours and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick