The holidays bring with them joy, merriment and festivities. But for some people the season also brings increased responsibilities, stress and even depression.
Susan Beam is a chaplain and manager of Pastoral Care at Norman Regional Health System. She’s seen first-hand how sometimes even happy holidays can trigger difficult emotions.
“The holidays can be very stressful because we tend to have unrealistically high expectations of the perfect “Norman Rockwell” family get-togethers and these actually seldom happen. Family disagreements, financial pressure and a calendar filled to the brim with social events can all add to the stress,” Beam said. “Also, the holidays can often be a reminder of times past, when parents, grandparents or other loved ones were still with us. This can bring on a sense of sadness in remembering those we have lost and longing for the way things used to be.”
So what can you do to ease some of the stress or sadness that may be putting a damper on your holidays? Beam recommends not to get too caught up in unrealistic expectations.
“It's so easy to overdo this time of the year, again because of the high expectations of how we think it should be, which only sets us up for disappointment when the reality falls short,” Beam said.
Her rule of thumb is: less is best, keep it simple.
“A quiet, festive gathering with hot chocolate and homemade cookies or an outing to see the lights can be meaningful and memorable for everyone,” Beam said. “If you have a large, extended family, drawing names rather than trying to get gifts for everyone can reduce the financial strain and time spent shopping. Siblings or other family members could go in together to buy one nice gift for a parent or grandparent.”
For those who may be mourning the loss of a loved one, Beam says grieving is an important part of the healing process. Allow yourself to feel sadness, she said.
“Sometimes a break from familiar traditions for a year or two can help ease the transition, or doing something special in memory of the loved one,” Beam said.
Her other tips for relaxing during the season include:
“Focus on the things that are really important during the holiday season,” Beam said. “Like spending time with family and friends, and nurturing your faith.”