It’s outrageous! The Irvington Administrator says we are dealing with the fallout of the economic crisis and the loss of millions in employee pensions, so what does he want to do?
You are trying to figure out how to manage your anxiety and buy gifts for 15 people you hardly talk to and have even less desire to visit. Perhaps depression and anxiety increase around the holidays because we are compelled by the expectations of our society to act differently than we normally would, to generate the "holiday spirit." Christmas, they say, is the time to feel love and joy and experience the pleasure of giving. So what happens if our emotions are not cooperating with the expectations that these holidays can create?
‘Tis the season to be schizoprenic
It is impossible and even overwhelming to sustain a singular mindset of holiday spirit while experiencing a multitude of emotions. Humans are not designed to stay in one state. Emotions are like the weather – indications of changing conditions. Joy and peace might be the least active of these emotions at the time the holiday season arrives. But yet we are inundated with holiday soundtracks in department stores, and an endless stream of TV commercials trying to mesmerize us into the buying spirit. The contrast between how we feel and the messages we receive from outside can lead to questioning our sense of reality.
Contrasting experiences can also exist in our private lives. Our higher selves would prefer to have heartfelt appreciation for the fact that our husbands are attempting to be helpful while they are outside hanging the Christmas lights. Yet the thought of divorce passed through your mind today. As husbands, wouldn’t it feel better to appreciate our wives’ heroic efforts to get the kids to dance class and arrange a host of other social activities? Why do we secretly feel they are neglecting us? Maybe it’s because too much stress can overwhelm us and start a cycle of negative thinking that is anything but jolly.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and normal
We have felt joy at other times in our lives when experiences were spontaneous and less pressured. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could move beyond to that sense of joyful anticipation that we had as children? Appreciation was seemlessly woven into the fabric of our existence because holidays were pleasurable without the hype. Joy came from positive expectation and the anticipation of pleasure. Adults, with our complex mental baggage, feel many contrasting and contradictory feelings. The holidays are a time when this contrast can become deafening in its intensity. It’s not surprising then that there is a great deal of depression and anxiety at this time of year.
‘Tis the season to be positive and hopeful
A double martini may help us feel better while we are dealing with contrasting emotions, but that is only a temporary "fix."
A more long-lasting method to improve one’s perspective is to work on changing repetitive
negative thoughts. The antidote for pessimism is hope; positivism is restorative. We can develop thoughts that promote hope, wellbeing and belief in the ability to make things happen.
Happy, hope-filled holidays!
Barbara Judd and Ron Grace are licensed clinical social workers specializing in individual, family and marital counseling. Barbara can be reached at 917-952-6966 and Ron at 917-991-5272.