by Al H. Jones, Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor at Head to Heart Restoration Ministry
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” the popular Christmas song says, but for many people the holiday season isn’t so wonderful. Instead of singing about red and green, they are singing the blues. The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, celebration, and fun with family and friends. So why do some people find themselves depressed, anxious, irritable, and overly stressed?
In order to battle the holiday blues, you first have to identify the cause of your negative thoughts and feelings. If you cannot find the root cause of your holiday blues, it is almost impossible to rise above them and move in to the season celebrating with others.
Three of the most common causes of the holiday blues are: bad memories of holidays past, losses in life, and unrealistic expectations. Most of the time, if you are suffering from the holiday blues you can link it back to one of these causes.
Bad Memories of Holidays Past
Bad memories of holidays past can produce negative feelings toward future ones. When you think of holidays past, are you overwhelmed with memories of family fights and broken relationships not repaired? These memories and unresolved issues can follow you for years, keeping you trapped in an unending cycle of the holiday blues.
Forgiveness may be a key to releasing bad memories of holidays past. Are there people you need to forgive and release to God? Do you need to seek forgiveness and repair a relationship with someone that hurt you? Do you need to release yourself? Unforgiveness, anger, and resentment may be keeping you bound to the bad memories of the past.
Once you have allowed forgiveness to clean up the wound of holidays past, take a moment to recall at least one good memory from past holidays. Focus only on the good memories and begin to create new memories this year to take with you for years to come.
Losses in Life
We all experience losses in life. Facing the holidays without a loved one can be very painful. Learning to cope with these losses is sometimes a long process. Emotions can be especially intense when the loss has occurred since last year’s celebrations.
Holidays often remind us of special times we’ve shared with family and friends. When death separates us from those we love, feelings of loss and grief can overwhelm us.
Sometimes these emotions sneak up when you least expect them to. A song, a smell, a touch will remind you of times together. Expect these moments and know it is a normal part of the grieving process. Understand that feelings of loss and grief are natural but you can find reasons and ways to celebrate.
You can begin by setting aside time and allowing yourself to grieve and cry. Share with family members fun and memorable holidays you had with the deceased loved one. Plan activities that your loved one would have enjoyed. Volunteer in the community. Surround yourself with people you love. Activities that help you connect with others are important to the healing process and can give you reasons to celebrate.
We have all seen the Christmas movies — everything is perfect, the house, family, party, and gifts. It even snows at the perfect time. We don’t live in the movies. The decorations don’t look like the magazine, a loved one can’t come at the last minute, cookies get burned, and gifts…well they too are not always perfect.
One of the best things you can do to combat unrealistic expectations is to give yourself permission to not have everything perfect. It’s not going to be perfect anyway, so why not start out free of the expectation. Remember, the holidays are about being with friends and family and not the perfect house, family, party, and gifts.
Getting Help from a Pastoral Counselor
Sometimes, the root cause of your holiday blues cannot be easily resolved by yourself. If the holidays are generally difficult for you, you could benefit from seeing a trained and licensed Pastoral Counselor. Pastoral Counselors can help you heal any of life’s emotional wounds by incorporating ethical counseling techniques in combination with biblical principles, scripture, and prayer.
Head to Heart Restoration Ministry in Bryan/College Station and in Round Rock, Texas offer professional Pastoral Counseling in a safe environment. For more information, contact Head to Heart Restoration Ministry at www.headtoheart.org or call 979.776.1176.