Bah Humbug!

The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! If you’re politically correct and don’t want to offend anyone, then you refer to them as “holidays.” I only use the term holiday referring to both Thanksgiving and Christmas as they arrive less than one month from each other. This is to say the “holiday” season. But since I’m not politically correct, I’ll be referring to the holidays as what they are, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Not everyone is a fan of Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are those individuals who may not have the financial means to eat a Thanksgiving Day meal because maybe they struggle to eat the simplest of things everyday. Perhaps their Thanksgiving is a daily recurrence rejoicing the availability of food. There are those individuals who are a great physical distance from family and may lack the financial means to travel to be with those they love. There are also those who because of some fall out years ago, lack the family and friend connections that most of us take for granted.

I used to enjoy the holidays. A couple of things were different. My kids were much younger and the changes in my profession of Social Work have added to the stress I feel during the holidays. My kids are both adults. They have their own families and hopefully will start their own special ways of celebrating the holidays. My son will be in Florida this Thanksgiving visiting his wife’s family. My daughter and her son will come for dinner before visiting her boyfriend’s family. My wife and I will have dinner with her mother before we leave to visit with my parents. I’m OK with all of this.

Wednesday morning I caught myself saying to my secretary, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I hate the holidays.”

I don’t actually hate the holidays, I hate what they have become. I hate what we, as a society have allowed the holidays to become. No longer are they an opportunity to spend time with family or I should say that family is no longer the central reason for the holidays. Instead we make plans to go “Black Friday” shopping which has now started on Thursday. My favorite store, REI or Recreational Equipment, Inc. is again participating in #OptOutside on #BlackFriday. They close their brick and mortar and online stores so their employees can spend time with their families.

As a mental health Social Worker, I watch many of my clients fall into the trap of, well since I’m using hashtags, #FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. My question is fear of missing out on what? Fear that we won’t have the most up-to-date whatever? What about missing out on family? The same family most of us take for granted during the remainder of the year? We take for granted that these family members will be there…until they’re not. The number of clients who present with symptoms of anxiety and depression because they have either increased the amount of debt they have been carrying or now find themselves beneath a new load of debt rises by over 50%. I understand the stress of not being able to afford to travel to visit loved ones who live a great distance away, of missing out on seeing grandchildren we might only have an opportunity to see once a year, but why add to the stress?

As I was writing I looked up some statistics during the holidays. What I found was exactly what I had already written about. The top stresses are: stress, fatigue both emotional and physical, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress and the inability to be with one’s family and friends.

Have a plan for the holidays which puts you first. Take care of yourself in a way that makes you happy. Spend time with the family that you want to see and ignore the drama which, we all know can be there at the drop of a word. For me it will be dinner with my wife and family. A dram of Bruichladdich Islay Barley and if the weather cooperates, a fine cigar. You won’t catch me shopping in a store or on-line.



2 thoughts on “Bah Humbug!

  1. Chris,
    I think your last paragraph is great advice. How we each mentally approach the holidays can really make a difference. For years, I used to dread the holidays, mostly because of the way I allowed “tradition” to make me feel. When we are able to free ourselves from expectations based on our upbringing, it liberates us and allows us to create the kind of holiday experiences we choose to have instead of those we feel obligated to take part in simply because “that’s what we’ve always done.”
    Cheers to you and yours! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jodi. I remind myself every Thanksgiving and Christmas to not personalize what my clients are attempting to manage in their lives.

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