You asked Santa for what?!? Looking back, that would have been a completely appropriate response, but I managed to keep my shock a secret. My children were only in their early elementary years that year. They believed in all the magic the Christmas season could offer. I wanted to keep it that way despite being a single mom, feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world.

On a hectic Saturday we stood in line for what seemed like forever before it was their turn. They seemed to approach Santa a bit more confidently than some prior years but I didn’t know why just yet. They climbed up on his lap, posed for a quick picture before leaning closer to whisper their Christmas wish into his ear.

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 the sweet honest reply my heart smiled and sank all at the same time. My children knew the gift they wanted was expensive, probably too expensive for my limited budget. Their minds were clever. Santa no doubt had more resources than I did.

Christmas morning brought squeals of joy. That year Santa made a number of sacrifices to make 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 tried to be cheerful but if I’m honest, it was heavy. That was before I knew how common depression and stress are during the holidays. We look around at this time of year and it’s easy to think we’re the only ones struggling. The truth is, we all struggle a bit during this season. There are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Reduce social media use – Several studies have found that increased social media use can lead to depression. Seeing all the cheerful, positive highlights from our friends and family can make us feel like our lives are falling short. Cut back on the time spend online. It can lift your spirit.
  2. Reach out and connect – Call a friend or relative and talk. Schedule lunch with a friend. Drop your cousin an email. Connect with those you care about with genuine conversation and quality time.
  3. Go to the gym – Exercise is good for the mind and body. Overcome the hurdle of ‘making yourself go’ by scheduling time to meet a friend or make an appointment with yourself. Start small and agree to go for twenty minutes or a half an hour. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. Help someone else – Do something for someone else. Donate a toy, a meal, or your time. Find a way to give to someone who is in need.
  5. 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.
  6. Talk to a counselor – Sometimes you need the assistance of a professional counselor to work through the difficulties life gives us. It’s ok! A great counselor can help tremendously when the holidays feel more blue than joyous.

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 lift your spirits and bring a smile to your heart.

What helps you find joy during this season? I’d love to hear from you!