The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. The fall school semester is winding down, there’s a bit of a chill in the air (although not too much since we live in Texas), the leaves are changing, there’s a holiday party almost every night, and all my friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their children being traumatized by Santa Claus.
Sadness and Disappointment
Even though I love Christmas, if I’m honest with myself, during this time of year I’m also more aware of sadness and disappointment in my life. I’m not sure why those feelings come up around Christmas, but they do. Maybe it’s the contrast. The Christmas season seems so ideal, and when I compare my own life to the ideal, it doesn’t measure up. For example, when I was single, the romance of the Christmas season would remind me of my own struggles with relationships. The joy and excitement of children around the holidays reminds my wife and I that we don’t have kids of our own. And so on.
Can you relate to having mixed emotions around the holidays? Do you love the holiday season, but also feel sadness and disappointment around Christmas? Maybe someone close to you passed away this year, and you’re more aware than ever that someone will be missing at the dinner table this year. Perhaps you are estranged from a spouse or your kids, and the holiday season highlights the tension. Maybe you have been trying to have kids of your own but it just hasn’t happened yet. The disappointment and sadness are more painful than ever this time of year.
I don’t have a “magic pill” to make your sadness and disappointment go away, but here are a few things that have been helpful for me when dealing with the holiday blues.
3 Ways to Deal with the Holiday Blues
- Lose the ideal. Some of my sadness and disappointment comes from comparing my life to an ideal that isn’t connected to reality. The problem is that the movies I watch, the Christmas cards I receive, and the perfect fantasy in my head about how my life “should be” isn’t grounded in reality. When I compare my life to the ideal, I’m bound to be disappointed because there is no way my reality can measure up. It can be helpful to recognize the ideal for what it is (not true), and stop playing the comparison game.
- Accept the full spectrum of life. Often I want to live on one side of life. I want the joy, but not the pain. I want the anticipation, but not the disappointment. I want the excitement, but not the anxiety. The problem with this stance is that it doesn’t reflect the reality of a full, engaged life. The truth is that my life is a mix of good and bad, positive and negative. I can try to deny that truth and be frustrated, or accept it and live my life with as much integrity as possible, honoring both sides.
- Practice gratitude. Sometimes I can get caught up in my sadness and disappointment, and fail to realize that there are things about my life that are pretty great. Again, the key is balance, honoring both the good and the bad. What is one thing right now that you are thankful for in your life? Take five minutes and focus your thinking on what you are thankful for.
How are you feeling this holiday season? What have you found to be helpful when dealing with sadness and disappointment around Christmas?