#Askingforafriend: What if I’m not of good cheer?
By Ellie Evans
GCU Office of Student Care
The holiday season – Christmas in particular – is a time of heightened expectation. Andy Williams’ lyric captures it well, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year/With the kids jingle belling/And everyone telling you be of good cheer.” But what if it’s been a tough year, the kids are yelling, and you (or your loved one) are not of good cheer?
Here are a few ways to think about coping with this season.
First, know that it’s normal and OK to feel low despite all the hype. The holiday movies and social media posts we view often portray an unrealistic story of perfection. It’s actually quite common to feel more depressed or anxious during the holidays because of the pressure to not feel anything less than jolly. This Christmas, explore your emotions with compassion. Have a curious posture toward your inner experience, and validate for yourself (or your loved one) that the emotion makes sense.
Perhaps this year was met with a lot of disappointment and the Christmas you’re used to celebrating just isn’t happening. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, or a loved one, or there’s added conflict in the family. These are tough challenges in life, and it’s appropriate and healthy to embrace the wave of grief felt in those circumstances.
Second, identify what it is that you need (in an emotional sense) and find ways to appropriately meet that need. If this Christmas triggers a deep sense of loneliness as a relationship has ended, perhaps the need is for company or comfort. Plan for ways you can meet those needs by self-soothing or reaching out to those in your community. Some might find great comfort in remembering that this season celebrates Emmanuel (God with us) and that we can always turn to Him.
Maybe Christmas incites anxiety as the comparison game spirals into a pit of shame. Perhaps you need connection or acceptance. Consider ways you can alter your inner dialog, minimize access to comparison, or reach out for support through meaningful relationships. Anticipating what will be most challenging about Christmas can help us prepare to experience the day with decreased distress because we’ll have coping skills at the ready.
Third, advocate for your needs with boundaries. Conflict can be rife this time of year. There may be a need for boundaries with others regarding our time and engagement in activities or conversations. Here are three tips for communicating a boundary:
- Make it positive by expressing appreciation or value in the relationship.
- Be clear and kind about what you need.
- Make it about you. Your boundary is yours to own, express that it is your preference or need.
Here’s an example: A relative asks you about your views on the latest in politics, and you know this conversation will create tension that will be unproductive. You might say, “I appreciate your interest in my views, however I prefer not to discuss politics today. I would love to know what hobbies you’ve engaged in since we last talked.”
When all else fails, know that just as the leaves fall and seasons change, this, too, shall pass. It’s OK if this Christmas (or even all Christmases) create a feeling of dismay. This longing reminds us of greater things to come! The important thing is that we tune in to what we’re feeling and find ways to self-soothe and seek support. Only then can we appreciate that a season can be equally joyful and distressing. Our challenge is to embrace both.