In my youth, I was perplexed at how the holidays brought out the “lunacy” in people. I discovered there were, and still are, three main ingredients that trigger this insanity.
It’s the retail merchants who break out the holiday merchandising displays combined with daylight savings and cooler fall temperatures that propel otherwise normal people down the path of “looney-tunes.”
The Cuckoo’s Nest?
However, as I grew into adulthood with a family I came to understand this “mind-warp. It is all about the yearly challenge to “create magic.” It is about the creativity, time, effort and planning it takes to create the “perfect” holiday. It is about the excitement, spiritual peace, dread, joy, longing, and sometimes even depression and anxiety that takeover your natural state of being.
With the first visual cue of the season comes a barrage of the automatic thoughts with plenty of emotion attached.
Let’s face it. It’s about SURVIVAL!
I’m Not Mary Poppins
Granted, there are exceptions to the rule. You know the types. They have completed all of the “work part” of the holiday season so they can enjoy it. Their decorations are up, the shopping completed, presents wrapped, silver polished, invitations out, dinners planned, etc.
While I appreciate these people, it’s just not me. There is no way I will be “practically perfect in every way”.
Instead, I’ve been motivated to develop strategies that make this time of year enjoyable for me… despite the chaos.
Let me share with you a little perspective.
Why Do We Create Holiday Insanity?
As a child, the excitement and anticipation for presents is enormous. After all, a guy who flies around the world in one night — in a red suit and sleigh pulled by reindeer — hand-delivering presents via the chimney is just way too awesome. It was even more amazing when you got exactly what you wanted!
We want to recreate and experience the magic.
Most of us have experienced a holiday that felt magical. Was it Santa visiting as a child? Maybe it was the beauty of lights on roof tops and trees. Perhaps the smell of fresh pine in your house. Or, a time when you gathered with friends and family that made you feel all was “right” in the world. Possibly, the music and celebration in a house of worship that reinforced an emotional connection to something greater.
Holidays are meant to be different than regular days. They are supposed to stand out and be special. But they can’t all be memorable — especially if you have lived through decades of them. Some will definitely stand out more than others. It is the wanting to make each holiday “as good as” or better than that can create the “holiday lunatic” in you. Maybe we are re-living our own best childhood experiences (and passing them on) or trying to create what was wanted growing up.
So, the pressure is on to plan, organize, give, and go. And you better have a good time!
Tips for Survival
- Understand the purpose of the holiday. It is a special way to commemorate a historical person or event, to honor service in others, or it may have religious meaning.
- Choose what traditions and rituals are important and have meaning to you and your family. Ask. Don’t assume. Negotiate if there are some differences. Focus on those that are important. Understand that some years, for whatever reason, everything is not going to get done.
- Give yourself permission to make changes!
- Learn to ask for help. This does not mean you are a failure. There is joy and camaraderie in doing something together. Share the effort and investment in the process. This can reduce resentment.
- Delegate responsibility to others. Remember to delegate only the things that you can accept when they are not done your way. If you have children it can be a teaching and bonding experience. Whether it is asking for help with the meal, putting up decorations or shopping, most people will step up. And if they don’t…coal!
- Remember to surround yourself with people and places that have meaning to you. If the holidays are painful for you remember you are not the only one. This is a difficult time of year for many so reach out to your family, friends, clergy or mental health professional. It is exhausting whether you are totally engrossed in the holiday season or hiding from it. What ever you choose to do this season…ENJOY IT!
The work part can be overwhelming which is why most continue to plow through the season from start to finish. There is often relief the first week of January, when the parties are over, lights are down and the house is put back in order (if you are lucky).
The lunacy is over (til next year).