“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” so they say. However, for many folks, Christmas time can be a difficult time of the year, difficult for all sorts of reasons. And the holiday season only magnifies and intensifies our difficulties. For many people, they isolate – hibernating and wait for the season to pass. But by the time they have so burrowed themselves in, it’s hard to step back into life after the season has passed. And far too many of us suffer through the season in silence, “faking it.”
Over 20 years ago my wife and I went through one of the most difficult Christmases we have ever had. That fall I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was asked to resign as the senior pastor of a ministry that was my “idol” and in which I placed the whole of my identity.
Being undiagnosed and untreated had taken a huge toll on everyone around me; especially my immediate family. My wife and I were emotionally spent due to the losses and pain we had experienced. We were so battle-weary, entirely spent, no energy left – not even for pretending. The thought of putting up a Christmas tree was overwhelming. But, for the sake of our kids we knew we had to at least get a tree up. It was at that point that two dear friends asked us if they could come and put up our Christmas tree for us. They came one afternoon and put up our tree and all of our Christmas decorations. Having that act of kindness shown helped us emotionally get through Christmas.
That Christmas taught me about the emotional pain and hurt that many people suffer during the Christmas season, pain caused by such things as a death in the family, loss of a job, loss of a marriage or relationship, financial collapse, loneliness, depression, or family problems. Plus, many people suffer during this time of the year due to trauma that is triggered by the holiday season itself.
How about you? Are you facing a difficult Christmas season? Are you overly stressing about what needs to be done or the upcoming family gathering? Are you isolating yourself from all of it and everyone?
Through several different painful Christmas seasons that we have faced as a family, we’ve learned what is vital to surviving and possibly even thriving through the holidays:
- Keep things simple. Keep your schedule simple. Keep your commitments simple. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
- Balance alone-time and time with others. (Don’t isolate. Isolating will only make things worse.)
- Talk about the issues with someone who is safe. Talk about why it ‘s a difficult Christmas, but don’t ruminate about it. Identify the pain and work through it.
- Do self-nurturing, but don’t do self-medicating or self-harming. Take time to de-stress. Becoming over-stressed can easily trigger a dangerous shift in mood.
- Lower your expectations. In fact, try to have no expectations. Too often we have too high of expectations, and the disappointment that follows when those expectations are not met will only add to one’s pain.
I’ve come to understand that a meaningful and “merry” Christmas is not about the activities, gifts, nor events. What matters is what is going on inside of me. It’s not about what happens; but what is going on inside of me.
What have you found to be helpful when you are facing a difficult Christmas?
You can check out Brad’s podcast at: http://ift.tt/2hDatzD
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