I love the holidays. Who doesn’t? The music, the lights, the presents… It takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of the spirit of giving, joy and peace on earth. I have many wonderful memories of my family watching movies, eating delicious food and celebrating the season together, and I love to reminisce as often as I can. But the hard truth is that as I’ve gotten older, the holidays have lost a bit of their magic. It seems that as an adult, this time of year can really fall short of your expectations.
I remember the first Christmas after my son was born. Bryant was just over a month old and I was exhausted. I was deep in the throes of the “post baby blues”, my body was still healing from my unplanned C-section and I felt like a shell of who I once was. I was going through the motions of what I thought Christmas should be like: taking photos in our matching pajamas, baking cookies and looking at lights. I wanted Bryant’s first Christmas to be perfect… But the reality is, the holidays aren’t always like a Hallmark movie. There isn’t always a closing Christmas carol and kiss before the credits. Sometimes the holidays are downright dark.
I felt completely alone during those weeks. It was the time of year when I was supposed to feel surrounded by love and joy, but all I felt was lonely. It seemed like everyone was so busy that no one cared about me. And even though I know that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t mind leaving Christmas 2018 in the past forever. Thankfully, I have stepped back long enough to learn a few lessons from that time in my life. I believe there is such a thing as “suffering well”, and I wanted to share a few ways to find the beauty in brokenness. I hope this can help you if you are navigating through something difficult this holiday season.
- Engage with Your Circle
It’s easy to hide away during hard times. I find that I either feel guilty asking someone else to help me, or I feel like I should be able to handle this on my own. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to a friend! Consider spending time with friends or a family member who loves you and can support you through this time. Ask them to listen to you vent or distract you from what’s going on with something mindless and fun; whatever you need. I find that when I take the time to invest in my relationships, I often receive the greatest reward.
- Plan Intentionally
In my everyday life, I am pretty “go with the flow”, but during stressful times such as the holidays, I find that I benefit from a plan. My husband and I usually write down a holiday “bucket list” of non-negotiable things that make the holidays special to us (baking, going Christmas shopping, looking at lights around town, etc.). I love having something to look forward to and being able to check things off the list brings me so much joy! This tradition really grounds me during such a chaotic season.
- Set Realistic Expectations
Rather than putting all the stress on yourself for a picture perfect holiday, lower the bar so you can actually enjoy yourself. Simplifying your holiday doesn’t mean it won’t be special. Maybe you could split the cooking responsibilities or ask someone else to host this year. For me, I wish I had not gone to all 4 of our family celebrations in one day. Yes, I would have hated missing out, but it would have been better than what actually happened: I was overly exhausted, frustrated with my newborn and snapping at my husband. Self-care matters during the holidays, too!
Although this time of year is supposed to be filled with hope and happiness, it can also be full of stress and pain. Maybe it’s the loss of a family member or friend, an illness, a broken relationship, or maybe it’s just a lonely time for you. Whatever it is, I want you to know that having a happy holiday is not dependent on having a perfect one. Joy and sadness can coexist. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it cannot also be good.