From the window of my office, all I see is beauty. It contrasts with that first stab of the blues that seems to overtake me each December. Christmas is here, that Advent season of joy and celebrating the love of faith, the calling of my soul to the Divine, the gift of my family….to celebrate the life that I lead here and in the now. It’s a good life, and I wouldn’t trade it for another. Still, millions of hearts will ache this Christmas season, people like me that have no real reason to feel the blues, yet do. It’s called “holiday depression” and is centered around the thoughts and feelings we have, sentiments of real loneliness and even out right sadness. There are many causes for holiday depression.
The sun is out after a night of snow, and there are a million icicle diamonds glittering in the warmth of a new day sun. As it rises in the sky, the sun melts away this first kiss of winter and reveals the still bright green grass that my husband and I planted this summer. I remember those long hours of working in the summer kissed air, spreading new dirt and mulch to our acre of mature trees. I can stand here and see that memory, clear as day. Moments of laughter and kisses, the feel of the hot summer wind. Part of me misses the wind, but then, part of me misses the snow when it’s July and the fields are green and full of corn.
I think about my family, our friends, the parties and the squeal of children open presents in years past.
I think about the family that has come before in my childhood, all those somewhat dim sepia toned moments from a young girl in the California mountainside, in the foothills of Southeastern Oklahoma just off the Red River.
I think of those who have now gone on to the spiritual world, of Dad, my father, my Grandmother, and the memories of Christmas past.
I think of those in my present that are simply love lost to me.
Christmas thoughts make the view from my window full of memories, hard times, smiles. It’s been a tough year for many of us in may ways – I am no exception. For a moment, I am the Stille Nacht, the silent one. I am thankful for that.
Given that Christmas is sure to bring both laughter and tears, what can we do to embrace the real meaning of the season – love – and sleep in heavenly peace?
What about Christmas is meaningful to you? Conversely, what is it that causes you stress? Becoming aware of what is getting your goat this Advent season by identifying issues that aren’t “peaceful or meaningful” may help you enjoy Christmas more. Make your life easier by planning major parties of family “get together” well in advance, and using things like disposable chafers to make serving a cinch. Make cookies and candy in advance, buy rolls from the freezer, think about crock pot casserole – things that help you stay sane, if you’re the mom. If you’re the support system, pitch in and ask what you can do to help with these crazy holiday moments.
Be ready to feel moments of sadness, and embrace the “silver lining.” Psych Suite 101 writes “If you’ve lost someone you love and this is the first Christmas without them, let yourself grieve naturally. Christmas depression or holiday blues is a normal way to feel – as long as it doesn’t last for months afterward. Starting new traditions is a good way to lift your spirits and focus your energy outside yourself. So don’t sit around and cry – get moving. Ideas to start a new tradition? Take up caroling or helping others with errands. Getting enough exercise, oxygen, and fresh air may help lift the holiday blues. If you don’t have the energy or time to go skating, tobogganing or snowshoeing, simply go for a walk in river valley or around the block.
There is love in silence. Are you stressed at the thought of talking to a certain family member? Visualize yourself giving a hug, inquiring about a friend and then helping – get a drink or a snack. Let it be a short interaction. Keep your eye contact to a minimum until you feel more comfortable. Are Dad and Aunt Rachel going to duke it out again this year? Have a contingency plan, or an early talk with them both. All white elephants need to stay outside for the holidays. Remember, you have a specific meaning for this season – and it is different for each of us. Maybe you’re a dedicated Christian, and this is the season of celebration for the birth of the Savior. Maybe you’re not necessary aligned with any faith, and it’s about the love of family and friends. Perhaps you’re not in a place in the world where there are many friends, any family – you can create the holiday you chose. Volunteer for people in need, serve a community meal at a shelter or church, help the Salvation Army. Do whatever makes you a happier you and serves the love community in which you live.
Experience constant, overwhelming gratitude. It’s the first and last thoughts of my day, the guiding principal of all that I do. I am grateful, filled with grace and happy. Be grateful for the friends and family you have around you, and expand your community to include people that may normally feel left out. Remember – many people feel alone. Open your eyes and look around. Do you see someone in need, who will be alone this Christmas? Someone without a spouse or friend? How can you help others be grateful? I write pretty often about how much I love the home that Brian provides for our family – there isn’t enough space in this article to honestly be thankful about the blessings in my life. Be thankful for your house, your car, your pets, your job, your country. Be thankful that you’re given reason to celebrate, no matter where you are in the world. Living in the now, in the present will teach you this lesson quickly: You are blessed in so many ways, my friend. Be mindful of those blessings, and thankful of those you love.
Take time to connect with your faith. It doesn’t matter what faith you practice, now is the time to walk in the grace and peace that your connection provides. Actively breathe, forgive other grumpy folks, say a prayer or find some time for meditation during your crazy Christmas shopping or decorating rush! One writer said “make it a priority to connect to the source of your power – don’t lose yourself in the Christmas craze. Even if you don’t believe in religion or spirituality, take time to ground yourself by spending time alone.”
Say “Thanks and I love you.” It can be a tough time of year if a relative has passed on, or the memories that come to us are focused on love lost. Still, most of us aren’t completely alone at Christmas. It can feel that way. Are there elderly people in your neighborhood that you could reach out to? Students far from home that attend your church or community functions? People that you know will be left isolated on this, the most festive of days? Be the miracle. Help someone else and you’re going to see the sun begin to shine. Talk to people. If you’re really alone, let others in your world know that you’d appreciate the community time. Reach out to the people around you and be aware of the need for love, the willingness to give love, fellowship and community. Appreciate and accept the people around us for who they are.
Live in Joy – it’s a conscious choice. A fellow blogger turned me on to this book. “Our lives are filled with people whose presence helps us live and thrive,” write Baraz and Alexander in Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness. “Besides opening your own heart, expressing appreciation to others makes them feel more comfortable around you. They’re not on guard, fearing judgments. They can relax and feel your friendliness.” Acceptance and appreciation doesn’t just make Christmas meaning for you, it makes a different to those around you.
As I sit and watch the snow melt away, the squirrels come out for food and the song birds once again lite on the feeder. It’s December in Indiana, that time of crackling fireplaces and children’s excitement. The blues aren’t so bad this year, even though my heart still aches a bit. I hope that these suggestions help us all keep the focus on what the meaning of Christmas ~ and indeed, life ~ really is.
So to you I send my love and the best prayers of a happy, fulfilling and blessed Christmas season.