It's That Time Of Year Again - Here we go again.
Each year, after Halloween has passed, I receive emails about the upcoming holidays. No one is complaining about them; it is more their way of venting about the expected stress and rushing around they bring. I thought this might be a good time to talk about this topic.
The major upcoming holidays for most are Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and, of course, New Year's Eve. All of this occurs in roughly six weeks. However, the prep work starts much earlier, and the cleanup continues afterward. It is much easier if you are single or a couple with no children. However, I remember raising three children, and when they were young, taking them around to visit family, dinners, shopping, and more, including but not limited to diaper bags, strollers, clothing, and everything that comes with traveling with children and babies.
If that isn't enough, let's add shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, traveling, and finances to the mix. When it's all said and done, is it unreasonable to think that many people become stressed over the holiday season? When one ends, the next one begins. Is holiday stress real? You bet it is. And that is only one side of it. How about those who are alone and do not have anyone to spend the holidays with or those who recently lost a loved one? What about the first responders, doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers, and others working these holidays to keep us safe? Let us not forget all of our men and women who serve in the military and cannot be with their families. We cannot forget these individuals who make this sacrifice so we can stay at home and enjoy the holidays. This is a part of life and also adds some stress and depression to the mix.
With that said, it is all worth it. Because at each holiday, regardless of your faith, you enjoy the time with family and friends, and the stress seems to melt away. Here is a good article from Harvard Medical School on Holiday Stress and the Brain. CLICK ON THIS LINK. Like most, as children, we don't remember any of these reactions because the responsibilities did not fall on us. We were kids. All we had to do was be there and enjoy everything. However, we grew up, and now, the responsibilities fall on us. This makes for a completely different perception. One that can lead to stress.
I fell into this trap for a short period around the holiday season. Many decades ago, it was a bit different. How many of you remember when you didn't hear a word about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving? It was like a magical experience. One day, the stores had no remanence of Christmas; overnight, the stores were completely decorated and ready for Christmas. I miss those days, as I am sure many of you also do.
Starting before Halloween, we see Christmas decorations in stores while Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are up. No wonder we get stressed. I call it holiday overload. There's nothing like hitting you right in the face about what the next few weeks will cost you. Much of holiday stress is caused by a person's financial situation—especially when things are so expensive. Many shoppers start early to spend their money over time, but many still wait for the holiday deals. Either way, everyone does what is best for their situation.
Did you know that, on average, over 50% of people charge and pay for all their gifts over the following year? To some extent, with extended low or no-interest specials offered by many credit cards, that is not a bad idea, as long as you get the bills paid off in time. It is an excellent plan if nothing unexpected comes up. Like the car doesn't break or the furnace doesn't stop working. All of these things add to the stress of the holiday season.
HAVE WE LOST THE MEANING?:
The question is, have we lost the true meaning of these holidays? There was a time when the true meaning of holidays was good food, spending quality time with family and friends, and simply enjoying the enjoyment these holidays bring—the wonder, excitement, and watching the kids opening their gifts. Gifts were not valued by the dollar amount spent. The thought behind them valued them. Every parent wants their children to get everything they want. The interesting part is if they get numerous toys, they break most of them and end up with one or two favorites. I remember working as much overtime as I could, and we bought our children so many gifts they were opening them for an hour. They broke many within the next two hours and settled on their two or three favorites. The rest just were put aside.
As they grew older, buying them what they wanted was more expensive, but at least they used the gifts they wanted. Yet, as parents, we all do it, and I am sure parents will continue to do it. There is something about the excited look on their little faces when they see everything under the tree.
In some cultures, the religious meaning of their holidays is paramount above everything else. However, in a commercial society such as ours, a mix of religious beliefs and the retail value of gifts define the meaning of some holidays where gifts are exchanged.
For me, I have no desire to receive gifts. I get what I need as I need it. Besides most of the things I buy myself, I would never want to see anyone spend that degree of money. With the world being as busy as it is and my children being busy raising their kids, spending time with my family over the holidays is the best gift I can receive. You cannot put a value on memories. Memories do not break, nor do they wear out. They last a lifetime. I also try not to forget the meaning of each holiday and what it represents.
As we grow and mature, we realize what is important in life. That is not to say we should take anything away from our little ones. It only means we must remember all these things throughout the holiday season. We must pass these holiday and family traditions on to those who will take them to future generations. Without this occurring, many family values and traditions will be lost over time. People will also form their family traditions as older generations pass into the next chapter of their lives.
The cycle of life is such that the young grow, get old, and pass on with the hopes that they leave something behind. Memories, traditions, love, joy, and happiness are only a few. What people who continue in life do with these gifts matters. The cycle of life will never change.
WHAT DO WE DO?
During these holidays, we do what we can and do not stress over it. We enjoy them, our family, as well as our friends. We stay thankful for the gifts that life has blessed us with because these gifts have been denied to many. It is always easier to feel sorry for ourselves for what we do not have rather than be thankful for what we do have. It is human nature to what more. To think that we deserve more. To wonder why some are more fortunate than others.
However, we can allow those feelings to overcome us and be miserable, ignore them, concentrate on our lives, and be happy. I know. Easier said than done. It is only a habit we need to break. There are many forms of wealth. Wealth is not only defined in dollars and cents. Many wealthy people are unhappy. I will not say that having money in the bank doesn't help happiness. It does. It helps to reduce the worry that so many feel when it comes to making ends meet. However, you may be wealthy in other areas. The areas you take for granted. We all have our opinions, but we must look at ourselves, be thankful for what we have, and not compare ourselves to others. At any given time, anything we have, any people we love, including ourselves, can be taken away without a moment's notice. What we do is learn to appreciate what we have and what we can do.
All holidays are magical. They bring the magic of love, joy, happiness, togetherness, family, tradition, and whatever religious beliefs you follow closer to your life. Embrace them. Let them into your life and bring you all that you deserve. A lot of it is work. However, paying for the happiness they will bring you is a small price. Often, since the Christmas advertising season starts so early now, as Christmas approaches, I think to myself, "I can't wait for Christmas to be over with." After a moment, I think about all the joy it will bring and soon forget those feelings.
It is perfectly normal and acceptable to get frustrated during the holiday season. There is nothing wrong with you. If you didn't, I might think you were an angel. So many outside factors interfere with our emotions these days. We are only human. Don't be so hard on yourself. Nothing is wrong with you as long as you never lose sight of what Christmas or any other holiday means. That is what matters. What is in your heart always issues above all.
Over the years, I have learned to go with the flow. Rather than complain about Christmas trees in the stores at the end of October, I walk around them and look at them. I enjoy the spirit of the season. I look at it this way. I have plenty of time left to get aggravated. Enjoy all your upcoming holidays. You have them back for another year. Thank you.
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Be safe, stay well, and focus on being happy. And remember to always:
Live with an open mind,
Live with an open heart,
Live your best life.
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