Finding “Merry” And Surviving The Holidays This Year

September 18, 2015 | By

by Dr. Bert Pitts

A few holiday tips:

  • Focus on why we celebrate the holidays. It’s easy to forget, but “holidays” means “holy days.” Attend as many holiday music and worship services as possible. Read scripture. Pray more often. Spend some of your holiday time making a plan about how you want to live a better life, more spiritual, more purposeful, closer to God.
  • Be realistic with holiday expectations. People’s behavior does not change just because it is a certain time of the year. Taking time out early in the season to reflect on realistic holiday expectations can go a long way toward making your holidays more enjoyable and meaningful. Remember, there is no perfect holiday. Make holiday opportunities for humor and fun—it doesn’t have to be all work! Holidays change through the years. Enjoy the change and start new traditions. Trust that you have the power to create a holiday of choice and one that is meaningful to YOU.
  • Holidays are more about family and memories than gifts. Very few families will have as many gifts as usual this year. This can be a good thing! Holidays will automatically be “de-commercialized” in 2009, and we’ve needed it. Discuss options with your family like monetary limits that everyone will follow, drawing names and only buying gifts for the people you draw, giving more money to charities and less to each other. Instead of so many gifts, spend more time at the dinner table, talking and singing by the fire, telling old family stories, playing board games, perhaps watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas”, “A Christmas Carol”, and other great holiday movies.
  • Make a memory: Do something out of the ordinary! Here’s an idea: On or around Christmas, Chanukah, or your holiday, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, such as the Old Firehouse Shelter for Men, First Light (women and children), Jimmie Hale (men), or Jessie’s Place (women and children). Or just make a bunch of coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies, and drive to a downtown park (like Linn Park in Birmingham), and pass out heart-warming treats to needy people. Give away a blanket, coat, or warm shoes you don’t need, or a sack of groceries (Greater Birmingham Ministries, Urban Ministries, Salvation Army, Catholic Family Services, Jewish Family Services).
  • Attitude check: No guilt about giving less this year! If you weren’t paying attention during #3, don’t obsess on smaller gifts being lesser gifts! Don’t apologize or act like this holiday will be a downer: It may be the best one you’ve ever had! (In other words, you may have so much fun that you’ll use this year as a model, even when you DO have more money!) Your attitude about it will make it or break it, especially with the kids. Quickly squelch any of the kiddies’ negativity, complaints, or whining, and remind them how fortunate they are.
  • If children are disappointed or quickly bored with gifts they receive, parents can intervene! Take away some of the gifts and store them where the child cannot get to them. Later, the gifts can be reintroduced, perhaps one at a time. Or gifts that the child still does not like can be taken to the Salvation Army or another charity—take your child along, and let them experience the joy of giving something away that another child will enjoy.
  • Pace yourself, don’t overdo it, get enough rest, easy does it with alcohol. Here’s a hint: In just a few days, the holidays will be over! It would be foolish to run yourself ragged, worry about people not being happy with fewer gifts, or stress yourself into getting sick, off the wagon, depressed, or into the hospital by December 26th or January 2nd! Unless you really want to attend each holiday function you have scheduled, skip it…use the time to rest and recharge. Stop the madness…”unplug the Christmas machine.” (The latter is the title of a very good book on holiday de-stressing, which can be found in the “Books We Like” section of this newsletter.).
  • Steer clear of difficult family members. Some people dread holiday gatherings where particular family members tend to drink too much, and/or become antagonistic or abusive. The best response is usually “no response.” Consider the source, what they say about you or do to you is about them, not you. YOU are in control of your attitude and response…don’t allow the family member to control you. If you are feeling vulnerable, plant yourself near family members that will defend you. As a last resort, you can always leave the gathering, or if you are hosting, ask the difficult family member to leave, if they are not willing to shape up.
  • It’s perfectly OK for December 25th to be “just another day,” and to know you’ll survive it. The holidays are very unhappy times for some people, or will be this year. Some don’t have family or friends with which to enjoy the time. Some are feeling crushing loneliness, sadness, and grief. If the latter applies to you, give yourself plenty of distractions and things to do during the holidays, schedule your time, move around some (take walks and/or drives). Maybe leave town and take a short vacation, if possible. If you are in crisis and have no one to call, try the Jefferson County Crisis Center at (205) 322-7777. Past or present Pitts & Associates’ clients can call our office number, (205) 870-3520, listen through the message until a live emergency operator comes on the line, then have your psychologist or therapist paged.
  • For newly married couples, sit down before the holidays and discuss each of your familys’ traditions (when meals were served, gifts were opened, other special touches that were done). In your new family, the two of you can now pick and choose from your familys’ traditions, plus add new ones of your own. Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings, regardless of how “special” a particular tradition sounds to you (or not), watching the way it makes your wife or husband’s eyes sparkle will make it special for you.

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