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How to Avoid the Holiday Blues

Updated on December 28, 2012
Holiday decorations in the neighborhood
Holiday decorations in the neighborhood | Source

Christmas morning is a blur – kids up early, opening presents, breakfast, brunch, lunch, relatives, friends, family. But by the time afternoon rolls around, things have gotten quiet, or at least quieter, and by the time it’s night, it’s almost too quiet. No one is around, the presents have been pawed through and, in some cases, broken by overzealous children, and everything is closed. Options seem to involve doing laundry or cleaning the house, neither of which seem very much like holiday activities, or at least holiday activities that anyone wants to do. There were days, weeks, and months all leading up to something that only lasted a few hours. And now there’s this sense of let-down. This sense that it’s over, and now there’s that final week of the month to get through before things start all over again.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can make it a happy Christmas all day and even all year long.

Celebrating more than one holiday at a time!
Celebrating more than one holiday at a time! | Source

Don’t Overplan

Every year, my family celebrated Christmas in a unique way. Since my mother was Christian and my father was Jewish, we compromised. There was a Star of David hanging on the tree, and for Christmas lunch, we had deli. Cold cuts, rye bread, pickles, chopped liver. It meant that lunch took minutes to set out and clean up.

I’m not suggesting you stop having turkey or ham or whatever your personal love and tradition is. But why go overboard? Most grocery stores and major chains, including Wal-Mart, prepare entire holiday meals that you can just pick up. Have just a few friends or family members over for the meal, and keep it relaxed. You don’t have to spend days or weeks prepping for the “big day.” Take it easy.

Don’t Overspend

This is often easier said than done, but it’s an important part of the holidays to remember. You start shopping, maybe at the last minute, and the next thing you know, you’ve maxed out your credit cards and can’t be sure you have enough money left in your bank account to gas up your car for work. Whoops!

As employees for community colleges, my husband and I both get paid once a month. Let me repeat that – once a month. Talk about needing to budget! Because of that, every year I make out our Christmas list, normally in January. Sure, it might change during the year, but there will also be certain people on it. Then we can assign a total amount we want to spend and figure out how and when to spend it all.

Don’t forget when you make up your list that you want to include family and friends, as well as school teachers and other people that you might want to give a small token of appreciation to. Those gift cards can add up quickly! Then, break it up by month – how much can you afford per month? Maybe your Christmas budget turns out to be $600. Assume that you have $50 a month to spend, and start shopping the minute you can. Carry a copy of your list with you, and mark off what you buy and how much it costs. Then put the presents in a closet or somewhere else safe, and you’re set. If there’s a sale in June on something you just know your mother wants for Christmas, you can buy it and put it to the side, ready and waiting, knowing that you got the best deal and won’t go over budget in a last minute buying frenzy.

Don’t Overeat

There’s food everywhere! Cookies, candy, and plenty of other goodies that are only around at Christmas. The easiest way to avoid overeating – and spending a few days feeling sick – is to avoid the most tempting items or limit your exposure.

One of my family traditions it petit fours from Hickory Farms, but I know that I could sit down and eat the whole box in one sitting. And regret it. So instead of buying one too early, or instead of buying more than one, I buy one and keep it sealed and wrapped, holding out until the last minute, and only then opening it up and rationing it out. If it’s not open and in front of me, I’m less likely to overindulge.

The same is true when you attend events. If it’s a buffet, fill up on the healthier options before you make up a plate of sweets. Then stop eating when you’re full. It may not be easy if there are still tasty treats teasing you, but it’s a lot easier than sitting up all night with heartburn.

The Bumpus Hounds!

Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations

The movie “A Christmas Story” is my favorite example of how to deal with expectations that are squashed. When the Bumpus’s dogs break in and eat the turkey, the father, who is devastated by this sudden event, doesn’t spend too much time agonizing on things that have gone wrong. Instead he declares, “We’re going out to eat!”

Maybe it’s not an unrealistic expectation that dogs won’t break into your house and eat your Christmas dinner, but we all tend to build up what we want for Christmas, how people will react to the “perfect” present we’ve given them, or even just expecting everyone to show up on time for the meal.

Christmas – or the holiday of your choice – is, at its heart, just another day of the year. While we may want things to go perfectly, why should one day be that much different than the rest of the year? People are still driving, so there can be delays and accidents. Weather still rolls in, whether it’s snow, rain, or fog. Food can burn if the oven timer doesn’t work right. The important thing to remember is that perfection may be an admirable goal, but it’s not necessary to make it a fun or happy day.

Don’t Forget the True Meaning of the Holidays

Holidays aren’t necessarily about giving and getting; sometimes they’re about sitting and reflecting. Sometimes they’re about being happy with what we have and learning to appreciate what we’ve been given, not just on that particular day but on every day of our lives. Don’t spend your day wishing for more; spend your day being happy with what you have.

Linus Explains What Christmas is All About

Remembering family during the holidays
Remembering family during the holidays | Source

Don’t Think You’re Alone

If you can find someone who’s had a perfect Christmas, then you’re amazing. In all my years, I have never heard of anyone having a perfect Christmas. There is always something that will keep it from being perfect. It could be as small as having a batch of cookies that burned. It could be as big as having a family member die.

Holidays bring up memories, and in our memory, we often make things bigger, brighter, and more amazing than they ever were. In our minds, maybe it’s that Christmas when we were five that was perfect, but if we ask our parents, that was the year we cried and stomped our feet because the bicycle we were given was blue, not green.

Holidays also bring up memories of friends and family that are no longer around, whether it’s due to death, deployment, or moves. It’s okay to miss those people, but remember that you’re not the only one who’s in that position. Sometimes just knowing that other people aren’t having a “perfect” holiday can help make us feel better because we can connect; we can realize that others feel the way we do, and it’s okay.

Don’t Forget to Help Others

If you really can’t find yourself focusing on the good of the holiday season, turn the table. Make it a good holiday for someone else. Volunteer to give out food at a soup kitchen, go through your closet and donate what you have and don’t need, even go out and buy some new presents for agencies collecting them for families and children. You can give presents to children with cancer, to child without parents, to children who don’t have enough money. You can host “families” and provide everyone with presents, if you have enough. Contact local shelters and state homes; ask what they need. Look on the websites for animal rescue websites. If you spend your time helping others, you may be surprised at what the holidays come to mean for you.

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