A sweet memory and a realization

You asked Santa for what?!?

I didn’t say that out loud but it’s no doubt what I thought. My children were only in their early elementary years that year. It was one of my first years being a single mom and I desperately wanted them to have a magical Christmas after a challenging year.

On a hectic Saturday we stood in line for what seemed like forever before it was their turn to snap a picture with Santa. This year they seemed to approach Santa on a mission. They posed for a quick picture and whispered in his ear before bounding back to where I was waiting.

What did you ask Santa for? I asked. They grinned a proud grin. “We asked Santa for a PlayStation because he has more money than you do.

With their sweet honest reply my heart smiled and sank all at the same time. My children knew the gift they wanted was expensive. They guessed it was probably too expensive for my limited budget. Their minds were clever. Santa should after all have more resources than I did.

Christmas morning brought squeals of joy. Santa came through making their wish come true. My children were non-the-wiser until many years later.

Despite the bit of magic that was made possible, it still was a tough holiday season. I did my best to be cheerful despite the challenges. At the time I had no idea how common depression and stress are during the holidays. It’s a time of year when the joy of others can sharply contrast our internal struggles. We might be tempted to think that we’re the only ones struggling. The truth is, if we’re challenged at this time of year, we’re not alone. It’s a time of year we miss those who aren’t with us, we grieve losses, and long for our own holiday magic. If you’re feeling blue or stressed this Christmas, there are several things you can do to help.

Tips to reduce Christmas stress:

1. Trade online connection for genuine connection

Several studies have found that increased social media use can lead to increased depression. The cheerful highlights from our friends’ lives can cause us to feel like we’re missing out, especially if we’re struggling during the holidays. Trade online connections for the real thing. Call a friend. Schedule a lunch or coffee date with a friend. Connect with those you care about with genuine conversation and quality time.

2. Get moving

Exercise is good for the mind and body. Go to the gym or commit to working out at home. Make an appointment with yourself or a friend and get moving. If it feels intimidating, start small and plan to go for twenty minutes or a half an hour. You’ll be surprised how it gets easier once you start. And, you’ll be glad you did

3. Help someone else

Do something kind for someone else. Donate a toy, a meal, or your time. Find a way to give to someone who is in need. You don’t have to look far to find someone who would really appreciate a little compassion.

4. Make your own holiday magic 

Cut snowflakes out of paper, listen to Christmas carols, bake your favorite cookies, or light a wonderfully scented candle. Look for little ways you can bring joy in to your celebration. Ask your family or friends what their favorite tradition is and in corporate those ideas into your celebration.

5. Let go of unrealistic expectations.

Enjoy where you are and who you’re with. Be present. Lean in. Laugh. Enjoy. Don’t set out to have the best Christmas of all time but instead set out to enjoy the moments as they come. You’ll be amazed how this simple perspective shift can really reduce your stress.

6. Talk to a counselor

The holiday blues can be overwhelming. If life seems heavier during the holidays, consider the assistance of a professional counselor to work through your challenges. A great counselor can help tremendously when the holidays feel more blue than joyous.

It’s your turn:

As you prepare for Christmas and the New Year, I wish you joy and happiness. And, if you find you heart feeling heavy, I hope one of these tips will help lift your spirits and bring a smile to your heart.

How have you helped a friend during the holiday season? What tips do you have for helping someone who’s feeling blue? Or do you have a tip that you’ve used in the past? Click to join the conversation. I’d love to hear from you.

Why not consider sharing this post? You never know who around you might be struggling. Let this post open a dialog. Invite your friends to connect if they’re struggling. Your shoulder might be their very answer to prayer.

Until next time friend, be blessed!