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  • Dr. Sharon Livingston

Maybe Scrooge Was Right


We interrupt this series to bring an important Holiday Announcement . . .

Contrary to popular belief . . . Scrooge was right.

While the media tells us the holiday season is supposed to be the best time of the year, a whopping 88% of Americans find it upsetting, anxiety producing and depressing. They actually dread it, feeling isolated and cast out from the norm of family gatherings and festivities. It’s so disturbing that many say they withdraw from friends and possible engagements that could relieve some of the loneliness and alienation.

Aren’t the holidays supposed to be synonymous with peace, love and joy? That’s what the media tells us . . . and our communities, churches and friends and of course, all the shops that want us to spend our money on them. When you think about it, we’re actually gifting the merchants more than anyone else.

They need to prosper. I get it. But not by putting undo pressure on us to look good to the people in our worlds.

For a huge number of Americans, the holiday season is upsetting, fraught with emotional distress. Did you know that the average couple will have 7 arguments during the season?

Why?

We’re supposed to be happy but . . .

For some, it’s an acute reminder that their family is dysfunctional, or uncaring or nonexistent or that they’ve suffered a loss of someone they wished was still there. Maybe it’s been a really hard year.

Why are holidays so hard when we think they should make us happy?

Contrary to popular belief, many others do not have Kodak moment memories. It’s not all harmony and fun times. In fact, many are reminded of how they don’t get along with the people who supposedly love them, who claim to love them while criticizing them for their own good. We think we are the sole exception, that everyone else is blissfully celebrating.

As much as we wish it was not the case, families are never perfect. It’s very likely that holiday gatherings will remind us of disappointments. We’re programmed to think this is a time of gratefulness when we should give thanks. Unfortunately, sadness, longing and emotional pain are all part of the human experience and tend to show up during holiday gatherings, when we wish for inclusion, validation and caring.

While we may see joy light up on the face of a friend or family member when they greet us, we tend to remember the not as nice comments or questions, which they may or may not have intended to hurt you but . . .

"You know, you would be beautiful if you just lost all that weight"

“How’s that horrible boss? Still blaming you for the loss in profits?”

"I bet your sister wouldn't say that to me"

"You actually believe what you're saying?"

“You always were bad at telling jokes.”

So how do we get through the holidays if we’re not in the Love Club?

Some ideas to consider . . .

Plan something for the days before and during the holiday, whether it’s going for a walk, helping out somewhere, reaching out to a friend to spend some time together or something that gives you a little pleasure you don’t ordinarily do.

Create a watch list for holiday movies you enjoy, ones that inspire and remind you of what’s good in life. I love watching two movies every year – Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Volunteer somewhere or volunteer to work for someone else.

Invite yourself somewhere. Call a friend who’s having a gathering and ask if you can join them. People usually are happy to include you and realize that they should have thought of it themselves.

Give yourself a small gift everyday from Christmas Eve to New Years. Wrap it up and open it with appreciation for the giver – YOU.

Decorate your home for the season your way – whatever that might be. Make it inviting, just for you. If others enjoy it too, it’s a bonus but not necessary.

Be especially nice to yourself in other ways. Maybe you can relax on something you think you should do. Cut yourself a little slack and go get that little gift instead.

Reach out on social media. You’re not alone. Others are experiencing the same sense of loneliness.

Consider volunteering. It can be a good way to restore a sense of proportion to your situation - and help others at the same time.

Create a Holiday meet up for other people who feel uncomfortable with the holidays. It could be at a local church, library or a webinar on line.

Just know, the vast majority of people feel stressed by the holidays. It CAN be a beautiful time of the year, but it’s also a tough time. Know this. It makes sense that you feel the way you do. It’s human to feel whatever we feel and it’s important to know and be tender with your feelings. Even if no one else in the whole world loves us, it’s so important and in the spirit of the holidays to love ourselves just the way we are.


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