A Peer’s Perspective: Happy Holidays?
Did you feel it? The sudden, gusty wind change from fall to seasonal pandemonium that just blew past at record speed? One minute, streets were filled with trick-or-treaters hoping for a lifelong bounty of sweets, and the next, Santa and his sidekicks pushed pumpkins off of the shelf in a mad race for first place with cranberry sauce, stuffing and turkey gravy! I’m exhausted just watching pandemonium unfold. While I sit and catch my breath, let’s chat about the expectations and emotions that come with the holidays.
Whether we like it or not, they come into our lives like the frost, at times sharply touching our hearts and minds with feelings that are just not that merry and bright. Why is this time challenging for so many people?
I remember many holidays as a single parent where crowds of angst-ridden shoppers scouring shelves for just the perfect present for their children made me feel so much less than festive. For me and many I have known, financial expectations can be oppressive at this time of year! The expectation of providing memorable treasures for those that mean the most to us can lead to some intensely frustrating feelings.
What I’ve learned from those times of not having things is that my children now remember the time we spent together, not the money I spent on them (or couldn’t spend on them). They share stories with me now about how they remember interactions, and not what they unwrapped or asked to have under the tree. Value is truly subjective, just because something has monetary value doesn’t necessarily mean it has importance. I remember handmade gifts that cost mere pennies that we still have and they are invaluable. Food for thought!
Speaking of food, holidays are a time for massive amounts of gathering, cooking, baking and eating — and pressure. This is a perfect area to be mindful in around the holidays. Besides food comas that usually last until spring, there is a lot of expectation placed on navigating the inevitable dynamics between friends and family. For many it’s the perfect recipe for stress and emotional disaster. My hope is that this is not the case for you.
If it is, what is helpful is having a game plan. It works for players during the big Thanksgiving Bowl games and I’ve found it to be true for me as well. What I mean by a game plan is, if you have awareness that some interactions will be challenging, what boundaries can you set in motion when they might occur? What self-care can you implement before, during and afterwards? What can you avoid to lessen your stress? Tell your support system something like “if you see me doing this, I need you to…” This tool most likely won’t solve all of your concerns (I envision so many possible scenarios, both from personal experience and too many holiday movies!), yet it could certainly mitigate many.
Lastly and certainly not least, I especially want to wrap around those who, like me, have an empty chair at the table this time of year. My hearts are heavy for you, and I want you to know that your sadness is understood and shared. Look to what you need, and remember that sadness is a normal emotion meant to be felt. I know how inviting it might seem to put on a brave face and push through when deep inside you feel the ache of loss.
Dear reader, what do you need during this holiday time? It’s a very important question to ask yourself. Tap into your supports and breathe deeply. Remember things about loved ones that made and make you smile, these are the treasures that can never be placed on a wish list and they are yours to cherish.
No matter how your holiday hustle and bustle plays out this year, take good care, be of good cheer when you can and I would like to be one of the first to wish you a very wonderful holiday season. Blessings to all!
Jill Davis is Peer Services Coordinator for Mind Springs Health and will be remembering her eldest daughter, who was lost to cancer, this and every holiday. Let her know the memories that get you through the holidays at Peers@MindSpringsHealth.org