How was your Christmas this year? If you had to rate it on a scale from 1 (not good at all) to 10 (really, really good) where would you list it?
Sadly, for a lot of people this year, Christmas is about a 5 on the scale. Although I cannot clearly “measure” this, I continue to hear people on radio, in stores, in my extended family, friends, and some clients report that this year wasn’t as joyous as they had hoped.
This article is for those who may not have had a merry Christmas this year.
Many of my clients are listing their holiday between 5 and 9. For a small portion of my clients, Christmas was a nice distraction from the stress, disappointments, and changes occurring in the world. For others, it was simply another day filled with the stressors of life.
Let’s face it, Christmas, (as beautiful as it is), can come at the wrong time for some people. I have heard many mention having to face the following during the holiday:
- financial troubles,
- unexpected illness or disability,
- mental health challenges,
- loss of employment,
- miscommunication with family or friends, and
- loss of hope
As a result, I have listed below tips on how to move past your disappointment:
- Accept reality: As difficult as it may be, accepting reality is the best thing you can do for yourself. The reason I say this is because the more you “fantasize” your way through this or try to make yourself enjoy things, the more your subconscious will fight you. I find that for most of my clients they begin to feel the reality of Christmas as the New Year begins. They discuss what they missed and why. They feel tricked, dupped, or even humiliated. If your holiday wasn’t as good as you had hoped, that’s okay. Accept what has happened in order to move on. The first step toward putting something past you is acceptance.
- Search for a “why” or “what:” It may be helpful to explore why your holiday wasn’t as good as you had hoped and what caused it. Once you do this, consider journaling your feelings or recording your voice as you discuss it with yourself. One of the powerful clinical tools I lean toward with most clients is journaling. Journaling helps you to process your thoughts and feelings and allows you the freedom to structure your thoughts. Even though we may feel we fully understand something and do not need to rehash it, journaling allows you to fully process the event and move on. Building insight is important and for some people it can be comforting to fully understand why you feel the way you feel.
- Plan a different holiday: This Christmas may have not been everything you wanted but you have next year, God willing. Consider different ways you’d like to celebrate the next Christmas. Would it be better if you did your shopping earlier? Would it be better if you didn’t visit a particular side of the family? Would it be different if you stayed home or did something small and fun? Think of different ways to spend the next holiday.
- Pursue or increase therapy: Sometimes life is just too much to deal with. If you find yourself feeling depressed, hopeless, despondent, or frustrated consider seeking therapy. You may also benefit from asking your therapist if you could come in more than one time during the week until the holiday is over. Having someone to talk to and having someone to examine and evaluate your feelings can truly be helpful. Perhaps your bad holiday had nothing to do with what was going on around you but rather symptoms of depression or anxiety. A history of trauma or repeated bad experiences may also be a cause. Keep in mind that therapy does not have to last very long. Perhaps you need one month or two months to learn new ways to cope with the stress in your life.
- Look ahead: As I stated above, you don’t have to have another miserable holiday if you plan ahead or think of ways to make the next holiday a bit better. Even more, you’re going to feel much better once you finally get over how this past holiday went for you. Look ahead to your future and explore ways you can make the upcoming year positive for yourself and/or those you love. Find good reasons (i.e., marriage, raising children, attending college or graduate school, having a baby, moving, traveling, etc.) to look ahead into your future. Avoid getting stuck in a bad spot over one day.
- Allow yourself to experience disappointment: Disappointment is natural and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by everything. Don’t feel bad about this. Try to find ways to help yourself move from disappointment to hope. It is okay to cry, be angry, feel depressed, or even defeated momentarily. But once you experience your emotions for a bit, move on to the next stage of life. Don’t stay there forever. Find a way to crane yourself out.
- Examine reality: One of the things I encourage my clients to do when they are struggling with negative thoughts and emotions is to challenge their thoughts and feelings. For example, let’s say your Christmas ended too soon and included many of your family members getting into arguments. Instead of thinking, “I truly hate my family and want this to be over,” you could challenge this thought and consider an alternative way to view the situation. Instead of feeling hopeless and helpless because of this statement, you could remind yourself that your family loves each other or that your family often forgives easily and moves on. It’s okay to accept the fact that your family may be difficult. But sometimes we can be more negative than we should realistically be.
- Give yourself (and others) the benefit of the doubt: One of my clients recently began beating himself up over the fact that his Christmas party wasn’t as “wonderful” as he had hoped. He planned a “block party” in which everyone on the street would come to his house to celebrate the holiday. Sadly, his neighbor planned the same thing which resulted in feelings of envy and anger. Instead of telling himself his neighbor had no idea he was planning a block party too, he told himself: “he’s trying to outdo me.” Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt and challenge yourself to examine if your feelings are reality.
Christmas is certainly a wonderful time of the year. It’s beautiful and divine. But if you have had a different experience this year, feel free to share it below in the comments section.
I wish you well in the New Year!
This article was originally published 12/28/16 but has been updated to reflect comprehensiveness and accuracy.
Photo by Capture Queen ™