Holidays are supposed to be “happy and bright,” right? But every year I hear from people for whom the holiday season is anything but that. Just yesterday a friend asked me, “How do you deal with depression?” A few days ago a group of ladies gathered in my home, and every single one of them had some sadness connected with the Christmas season. It’s sometimes hard to push through the holiday blues.
I’ve had Christmases where I’ve been miserable, lonely, tired, and depressed. I’ve gone to the hospital cafeteria just to eat somewhere other than alone. I’ve cried hearing Christmas carols. A couple years ago the first Christmas after my loving husband Al passed away was very difficult.
There may be many reasons your holiday season is blue. Shortened daylight adds to SAD – seasonal affective disorder. Memories of past Christmases can bring pain or regret or longing. Expectations of connecting with family and friends can be disappointed. Too much stuff to do, financial pressures, relationships that are broken or ended, feeling left out, and much more can make things difficult. When asked, up to 45% of adults say they dread the holiday season.
Christmas was never intended to be unmitigated joy and fun and partying. Oh, the western commercial interests have given us that impression. But the very first Christmas was painful and scary. Jesus entered a world where violence, division, fear, ignorance, and poverty were rampant. Mary and Joseph were away from home and desperately poor. And any mother knows that the birth of a baby, especially a first birth, is incredibly painful, bloody, scary, and messy.
I’ve learned a lot about pushing through the holiday blues. I’m enjoying the Christmas season this year, a lot! Here are a few ways you can do the same.
Choose Your Focus
You could ruminate over past Christmases that may have been filled with loss, trauma, disappointment, or even violence or abuse. You could pine for and wish to recreate past Christmases where you remember joy and family. Or you could take up residence in a dark valley of grief if you’ve lost a loved one.
But you don’t have to do any of those things.
Choosing your focus doesn’t mean forgetting past joys or sorrows, or denying your grief if you’ve lost someone. But it does mean choosing where to invest your time, energy, attention, emotions, and more.
You can thoughtfully decide what past traditions you might want to continue because they are meaningful, and to also make some new memories this year. You can choose what people you spend the most time with, and who to limit your engagement with. It’s up to you how many holiday events you attend; don’t automatically say NO or YES to every invitation.
You can acknowledge the holiday blues, and then decide intentionally what action steps to take, what environments to create, what messages to speak to your mind, what uplifting nourishment your soul and spirit need. Choose your focus.
Giving and Receiving
Constantly giving out in endless activity, busyness, or hurry will wear you out and leave you empty. Conversely, keeping your eyes focused on your own loneliness, lack of material things, loss, or sadness will lead to even worse depression.
Perhaps more than at any other time, you need to both take nourishment in and give out to others.
First, make sure you are intentionally choosing to feed your mind and heart during this season. Spend time with a Bible reading plan focused on Advent. Take time to invite Jesus to “go there” with you to the painful places in your heart where you may need healing. Invest in whatever sensory experiences nourish you – holiday decorations, music, Christmas church services, other media.
And second, lift your eyes off your own stuff and make someone else’s Christmas bright. There’s little that will lift your own spirits more than helping someone else. There are countless opportunities to do so during the Christmas season. Volunteer somewhere. Invite someone to your home for a Christmas meal who could never invite you back. Give a gift to someone anonymously.
Take advantage of the many holiday opportunities to get your soul filled up. And then generously, extravagantly, give to others.
Remember the Reason
Christmas is about the birth of a Baby. Jesus entered our world as Emmanuel – God With Us. He stepped right into the middle of evil as a helpless infant. As an OB-Gyn physician, when I deliver a baby I like to say whenever appropriate, “A new baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”
The first Christmas was God’s opinion that our world should go on. We may be in the middle of a mess. Evil and pain and darkness are everywhere. But this is the middle act in the play; it’s not the end. Jesus’ entrance into our world on the first Christmas was an invasion into enemy territory – and the assurance that God’s kingdom will triumph in the end.
This Christmas season, why don’t you invite Him to be born in you anew? Allow the message of God With Us to be God’s opinion that your world should go on too. For all the struggle, His birth in you makes the future both possible and meaningful.
His birth in you will be opposed, just as it was on His birth on the first Christmas. The purpose He wants to birth in you may feel messy, painful, uncertain, even bloody.
But if you make room for Him this holiday season, this Christmas can be your best Christmas ever.
O Come, let us adore Him!
Your Turn: What aspects of this Christmas season seem to be making your holidays blue? What steps are you going to take to make it through? Leave a comment below.
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- Here are some things I’ve had to learn to push through the holiday blues. Being intentional, feeding yourself, lifting your eyes, remembering the Reason – these things can help you do the same. Tweet that.
Beating Holiday Blues
On our podcast episode this week, I further unpack reasons why many experience the holiday blues. And I provide three detailed steps to pushing through the holiday blues.