Merry Christmas!

mental health personal growth relationships work Dec 21, 2022
Merry Christmas

If you’re reading this blog in the days before Christmas, maybe you have found a quiet moment either before or after a flurry of activity, family gatherings, celebrating and opening gifts. Or maybe your day doesn’t include any of that because you’re not close to your family – whether that’s by physical distance or emotional separation. 

Quiet moments are rare for some of us and “the usual” for others, but either way, they give us opportunity to reflect on the important things in life. In your quiet times, do you think about what you may be missing, or wish you had more – or less – of? Life is meant to be a balance of work and leisure, happiness, and sorrow, expressing and listening, giving, and receiving. Christmas and other holidays tend to magnify these aspects of life – the highs are higher, and the lows are lower. Sometimes people are overwhelmed with difficult emotions like regret, grief, and loneliness. It is not uncommon for some of my clients to talk about how much more deeply they miss a loved one who has either moved away or died, or to feel burdened with guilt during the holidays because of a failure or mistake. The happiness of the season makes their sadness even deeper. Some tell me they are exhausted by trying to please everyone and create a “perfect” holiday so their critical family members will finally approve.

If you are feeling the weight of negative emotions, I have a message for you: Christmas is about hope. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Jesus, it’s the hope of knowing that God came down to our level to help us understand His plan of redemption. It’s about knowing that we aren’t struggling through life alone but walking with a Savior who came to walk with us. But even if you don’t believe in the biblical Christmas story, this is a time to consider that life consists of ever-changing seasons, which means if you are experiencing hardship or painful circumstances, you can have hope that things won’t always be the way they are – in other words, “this, too, shall pass.” 

Some practical ways you can keep the “merry” in your Christmas are:

Focus on the most important things. I have known people who worried so much about whether the place settings matched, or the rolls got a little burned at holiday dinners that they couldn’t enjoy themselves. If you have people you care about, a safe, comfortable place to celebrate and enough to eat, you have the important elements of the holiday season. Being together is more important than being perfect.

Take care of yourself. I do understand that planning the celebration, buying and wrapping gifts, attending recitals, plays, and holiday parties all add a lot to your schedule. That makes it even more important to get enough sleep, make healthy food choices, and avoid overindulging in sugar or alcohol. No one ever complains, “I wish I had taken a few more drinks last night!”

Connect with someone who needs some encouragement. One of the best ways to beat loneliness is to take the first step toward someone who is also lonely. If you have family members you haven’t talked with for a while, that’s a good place to start. Other people who could benefit from a kind word are clerks who have to work on the holidays, retirement home residents, or people you know from your neighborhood, church, or other organizations you frequent.

I hope you are enjoying a bright, festive holiday, but even if it’s quiet and doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting, I wish you a hopeful, joyful, Merry Christmas!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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