Charles Dickens opened his novel A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
The holiday season is a lot like that.
For so many, this is a joyous season. Since Thanksgiving, families have been decorating and appreciating the decorating done by others. We love hearing our favorite holiday songs all the time, everywhere we go. We select and wrap gifts. We cook in preparation for family gatherings. It is the best of times.
For some, this is a stressful season. Since Thanksgiving, in addition to all of our daily responsibilities we must find the time to decorate and string those lights. We are pained by the thought of hearing THAT holiday song one more time. We must shop, buy and wrap gifts - and all that buying can put a worrisome burden on budgets and families. We must cook and bake and freeze and also prepare meals for every day. And while we love gathering with family and friends we worry about making sure everyone will get along with everyone else. It is the worst of times.
And then there are those I try to be especially mindful of – those, among them some of our scholars, who have suffered a loss and find the holiday season very painful. They are the people who are comfortable with routines like getting up and coming to school and find vacation times and its shift in routines unsettling. They are the people who see celebrations and can only think of who is no longer there to celebrate with them.
For those of you for whom the holiday season is the best of times, on behalf of the entire CACPCS staff, I want to wish you the very best of the best of times.
For those of you for whom the holiday season equals stress, I offer you some advice I found in Psychology Today:
Remember what the holidays are truly about: People always bemoan rushing around, spending money and having to tolerate their families, but if we think more deeply about this, this is really not what the holidays are about at all. The holidays are a time for authentic communities to come together and a time to remember values and the fact that you are not alone.
Exercise: Remember that mental stress can be relieved by physical exercise. Often, we think of going to the gym as a drag, but this does not have to be your exercise to relieve stress. Go for a brisk warm after you bundle up (as long as there is no ice out there!) If not, get some simple gym equipment to work out with at home. Once you increase that metabolism, you will be astounded with the stress relief results. Also, to combat the higher rate of heart attacks over this period, this intervention can be really helpful and a good build up to New Year's resolutions.
Listen to music that you love. If it is the holiday music that you love, go out and see what's out there as new takes on holiday music. New jazz collections or contemporary interpretations may really make your day. If you're tired of holiday music, make sure to take some time off and get that energizing music into your day.
Ask for help. If you're the appointed gift buyer but simply can't get all your chores done this year, ask for help. You don't have to be ashamed to need help when you are doing a gazillion things at the same time. You can have a family day setting the Christmas tree. Or you can get help wrapping gifts as well. If you don't have a budget for it, you may want to plan ahead for some help when your 20,000 visitors descend on your home for that holiday dinner. Next year, you may want to put some money aside to get someone to help you with the preparations.
eXtricate yourself from unnecessary socializing. While the holidays are about community, one-too-many holiday parties can be very tiring. Decide ahead of time which parties you can afford to go to (mentally) and which you simply do not have the time for. And remember, over-commitment is not a sign of love-it is simply a sign of your own guilt.
May it be “the best of times” for everyone.