We all know how much our kids love the holiday season, but it can be a trying time of year for adults. Along with the opportunities for extra connection with family and friends, celebrations of faith and the enjoyment and comfort of annual rituals, the holiday season may also bring feelings of fatigue, worry over spending and grief for missed loved ones. This creates a rollercoaster of positive and negative emotion. Positive and negative reactions will shift as different developmental stages of live occur. Some examples:
- College students may be delighted with the new freedoms of being on their own, but coming home can bring new insights that family routines don’t fill new longings.
- Young parents may feel deep joy and empowerment when they plan and observe the intense delight of great Santa moments for their young, but the strain of extra financial pressure and expectations from extended family, as well as keeping up with the high demands of young children, can make the holidays especially stressful.
- Empty nesters have more choices about how they handle responsibilities and pleasures, but at the same time, holidays are poignant times of missing passed-on loved ones, sometimes having to share adult children with other families, and increasing awareness that life deserves to be savored despite obstacles.
It might take real planning to avoid concentrating on just the tasks of the holiday season. Stephen Covey, the acclaimed author who writes about leading a life of balanced perspective, reminds us to “begin with the end in mind.” Thinking through those events, experiences, or moments that are most meaningful, what would be your top choices this year? Consider your holiday experience to be ongoing throughout life and plan for a few of your favorite moments that fit into your current life stage.
For example, my 2009 holiday goals are simple but important to me:
- I will set a date with my granddaughters and their mother to decorate cookies for our family and neighbors.
- I will decide which days I will enjoy time with my elderly father seeing the holiday lights, looking at pictures of past Christmases, and delighting him with humorous gifts.
- I will plan for early mornings of quiet contemplation by the fire with my spouse. Any other pleasures I encounter will be considered icing on the cake.
Human beings are wired to seek purpose and meaning in life. Although we may be tempted to get stuck in stale negativity, we instinctively move toward the fresh air. It is hard to know what happiness lies ahead but by experience, we know that life will bring more challenges and more unimagined delightful surprises. I hope your seasonal choices, however small they may be, will gladden your heart and add to your bank of wellness.
Phyllis VanHemert, M. Ed., is a Licensed Professional Counselor within the Counseling and Consulting offices of Paul Tobin and Ann Benjamin, www. ccoffices.com, 405-340-4321.