How to Plan Your Way Through the Holiday Blues

I love the Christmas season, but it hasn’t always been that way. Some Christmases have been really really hard. I know friends who would like to skip the whole season and wish the calendar would jump from mid-November to January. A whole lot of people have feelings of ambivalence – love the holiday season and hate it at the same time. How are you going to get through the holiday blues?

That “hate the holidays” part of you came from somewhere. Perhaps your childhood Christmases were marred by violence, alcoholism, or family disruption. Positive past holiday experiences may bring on expectations of good times that never seem to be fulfilled now. Seeing the highlight reel of other “happy” families celebrating can leave you feeling lonelier than ever if that’s not your story. Perhaps you can predict feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

The best way to get through the holiday blues is to be intentional. You don’t have to let the holiday blues run your life for the next month. You get to choose what to do with your time, your mind, your money, and every other part your life. That’s called agency. And embracing your agency through the holiday season can turn it from blue to bright.

Here are three ways to do that.

Say YES and NO Carefully

You may have embraced certain activities around the holidays that you sort of assume you’ve got to do. Instead of just doing what you’ve always done, think in advance about the choices you have. Does this event bring me joy and meaning? If not, is it something I choose to do anyway because it’s meaningful for others? Or am I just doing this because of what people might think if I don’t? That’s never a good reason to do anything.

“No” is a complete sentence. If you like extravagant Christmas decorations in your home, go for it! If not, who said you have to do that? Enjoy cooking, baking, buying gifts for others? Absolutely! If not, it’s completely OK to change it up or scale back. Do you look forward to spending those days with relatives? Fine. Otherwise, plan a Zoom call to greet everyone, or visit for a couple hours instead of several days.

You get to choose what past traditions to carry forward and what new traditions you might like to begin. The first Christmas or two after my husband passed away I just couldn’t bring myself to put up any decorations. Then I came to look forward to making my home all Christmas-y again. Some things remind me of the past, and some things are new and remind me that God’s future is born anew – for me – each year.

Intentionally Give and Receive

Christmas is a season of giving. There’s little that can help you get through the holiday blues better than extending yourself on behalf of others. Seeing others who are lonelier than you or more in need than you and doing something for them raises your sights beyond yourself and lifts your spirits. A friend of mine would prefer to do nothing for Christmas, but finds ways to do some things because it’s meaningful for her children. Giving is just how God created us as humans.

And you also need to receive, to take in nourishment for your soul during this season. Our busy contemporary consumer culture makes this difficult, so it’s all the more important you be intentional about this. What aspects of Christmas feed the deepest parts of you? Is it hosting a group of friends? Sipping your favorite hot beverage by yourself in front of a fire? Taking in the lights and music? Plan time and energy, perhaps even money, to do things that feed your inner being during this season.

This rhythm of both giving and receiving is important. It’s the way your soul becomes alive and also becomes a resource of goodness for others.

Remember the Reason 

The cliché is true; Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. We get to celebrate His coming to earth as God with us. When the angel said to Mary, “You’re going to have a Baby by the Holy Spirit,” and she replied, “Let it be to me as you have said,” at that moment the seat at the right hand of the throne at the center of the universe suddenly became empty. The eternal Word became a human embryo.

And nine months later Jesus was born. Wonder, O heavens! Be astonished, O earth!

How will you let that wonder saturate your soul this year? How will you invite the Christ-child to be born anew in you?

Perhaps you can use this season as a stimulus to become more intentional about your daily time with God. Choose one or more Christmas Bible reading plans. Check out the devotional book Making Room in Advent. Set aside some time to read the Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke and soak in it. Get an Advent wreath and light the candles together as a family weekly.

And what about giving Jesus a gift? A couple years ago a friend of mine told me how she does that every year, and it’s become a special part of my Christmas ever since. Start thinking and praying now about what you might offer Jesus this season.

Planning intentionally will help you make it through the holiday blues and experience joy this Christmas.

Your turn: Do you experience ambivalence about the Christmas season? What are you going to do intentionally this year to make it meaningful? Leave a comment below.

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  • If you struggle with the holiday blues, be intentional about planning for a season that’s more meaningful than stressful. Choose your Yes and No carefully. Both give and receive. And remember to invite Jesus into your Christmas.  Tweet that.

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