Dr. Deb's Mental Health Vitamin: Families on the Fourth

Dr. Deb Wade

By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services

We are preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July, arguably one of America’s most cherished holidays. We will likely have a celebration of our nation’s freedom with a day off, a backyard barbecue and plenty of fireworks! Food, family and fireworks – it doesn’t get any better than that!

However, as with any family celebration – or any holiday – where the expectations are high to be jolly, excitable and have the idyllic family picture of food and frolic, many families fall quite short.

When the stated or understood expectation is to bask in family togetherness as members celebrate this noteworthy holiday, sometimes other emotions besides excitement are present – dread, fear, anger, sadness or grief, to name just a few. For example:

  • Many people dread the whole notion of “family togetherness” because they fall woefully short in the “togetherness” category.
  • Many people feel fear at the notion of predictable family antics; i.e., that “Uncle Bill” will drink too much, “Aunt Sally” will monopolize each conversation with complaints, or John and Jane’s marital drama will be on display for all to see, once again being “that” family that falls woefully short.
  • Many people will feel anger at the “command performance” that is expected around holidays, knowing instinctively that expectations will fall woefully short.
  • Many people feel sadness and grief, especially on the Fourth of July, as the nation celebrates freedom and this family has paid the ultimate price – losing a loved one on the battlefield. These emotions fall woefully short of the collective nation, which is lighting up the sky with fireworks aplenty.

I believe it is important to realize that family dynamics can run amok with ANY holiday – yes, even Independence Day! It may be joyful on the surface – after all, it’s summer, the weather is beautiful, people are doing outdoorsy things, life somewhat slows down – but for one who is suffering with any mental health issue (depression, anxiety, over-the-top stress) this “slowdown” can be painfully uncomfortable and at times downright tough!

What to do? Try not to let outside expectations pressurize you to “join the crowd” if you don’t want to. You can gather those whom you love close to you, can create your own idea of celebration, can feel the emotion that surfaces at the playing of the National Anthem and the displaying of colors exploding in the sky – and, when you’ve had enough, can allow yourself the freedom to “call it a wrap.”

Or you may choose to use the extra day off to shut down all stimuli – get off your computer, take a digital sabbath, lay down on the couch with a book and allow yourself to fall asleep reading. If it’s too hard to celebrate at this time of year, blow off the Fourth of July party. Let your energy take you wherever it takes you – without accountability to others!

Above all else – be patient with yourself. Be loving to yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy the mini-vacation.

Or, be OK with changing your mind and join the celebration – position yourself on a blanket and just watch the sky explode with color. Feel the goosebumps that pop out on your skin as you experience the true meaning behind the fireworks. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for this nation we live in. Have gratitude for the freedom that is ours because of the bravery of those who have fought for us and protected our rights of freedom. Then, whisper a prayer …. “Please God, bless America and keep her strong.”

However it unfolds, God bless you and God bless America!

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

6 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

5 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/