What Color Is Your Holiday?

Bing Crosby sang he was dreaming of a “White Christmas”. Merchants see the holidays in hues of green. A large number of people see this season in red for the over-extended debt they accumulate. Then there are those whose holiday color is blue as in “feeling blue.” For many, this is a time of year full of rich traditions, beautiful decorations, festive celebrations and wonderful memories. However, for another large group of people, it is a season of depression, anxiety and the holiday blues. Why do so many dread this season every year? If you are in this latter group, determine this year to change the color of your holiday. Being willing to take a look at some of the possible causes and cures to your dilemma can do this.

Expectations
One of the main reasons for sadness in this season is unfulfilled expectations. Holidays revolve around family traditions and dynamics. It is simply not realistic to expect one holiday get-together to heal or fix years of family dysfunction or broken relationships. Many get anxious about the event because they know exactly what is going to happen based on years of family history. Instead, go to the various events with a more realistic expectation. Be willing to accept people for who they are including their flaws. Quit expecting another person in the family to make you whole; that is an inside job. The core issues causing problems in most families are about attachment, affirmation, acceptance and love. As an adult, you will have to heal yourself and no longer look to others to do this for you.

Perfectionism
Then there are those who want to make every holiday event one of perfection. They drive themselves and others crazy in the process, not to mention getting worn out physically. The late Vince Lombardi, famous coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Fatigue will make a person more susceptible to depression. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart with every party. Pace yourself both before and during the holiday. Plan time to recover before heading back to work after the holidays. Remember, it is about enjoying the people, not just the event.

Comparison and Regret
The scripture says it is not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12). Men especially can get depressed when they feel they cannot buy all the things that others are buying for their families. This can lead to regret when a person goes into debt and spends money they don’t have for the temporary high of a happy holiday. Rather than do this, look for creative ways to make your own gifts that can, over the long term, be more meaningful and valued than a toy that ends up lying around the garage broken. Get involved in teaching the family the true meaning of the holiday and do a family service project. These kinds of memories can make a lasting positive impact on your family.

Chemical Let Down
Looking forward to a greatly anticipated or positive event changes our brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline are released. Besides giving us energy, they release feelings of pleasure and well-being. Once the event is over, these chemicals can subside and there is a feeling of coming down from the emotional high that was experienced. This is normal, and produces the feelings of sadness that can accompany the post-holiday events. One way to deal with this is to have something else to look forward to. Hope is something humans cannot live without. For a Christian, there is the certain hope of heaven and the resurrection. Do not make any one event the last thing you have to look forward to in your life. As one event is concluding, know what you will look forward to next.

Reflect
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” People today are time starved and overcommitted. The big problem is a lack of considering where their lives are heading. This is also very true during the holidays. Take the time to reflect upon the true meaning of these holidays; their spiritual significance. Don’t get lost in the marketing and consumerism. Thanksgiving is about recognizing God as the source of all things in your life and expressing gratitude to Him and others. Christmas celebrates the birth of a Savior and the gift of eternal life given to those who never deserved it. New Years is a wonderful time to reflect upon where your life has been and where it is going, as well as what God’s design and purpose for is for it.

If this season of the year normally makes you “blue,” take the time this year to reframe your holidays. Consider if, perhaps, you have fallen into some of the above-mentioned traps. Recolor the season so it leaves you with peace, good will towards others and gratefulness to God.

Dr. John Hawkins Sr., along with his son John Jr., are co-directors of Gateway Counseling Center. He is also founder and pastor of Center Pointe Church both in Boynton Beach, FL. To contact Dr. John, email him at: [email protected]

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