Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, today’s the day. Which means I’m taking the day off from blog posts, writing, and so forth to spend some time with family.

o-christmas-tree-1443869-639x852

(This is not my tree. I wish it were!)

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has a great holiday, and I hope those who celebrate other holidays have/had wonderful days then and today. I’ll be back next week with some thoughts on 2018.

Holiday Stress

Sometimes holiday gatherings aren’t the fun, happy times we wish they could be. For a lot of people, the stress of the holidays leads to conflict during get-togethers, even if the rest of the year everyone gets along fine. On the other hand, sometimes the holidays force us to see family members we prefer to avoid because the relationship is strained to say the least.

For some people, seeing family during the holidays is dangerous, and yet they are given no choice about spending a day among people who hate them for being who they are. Or, instead, they might be banned from seeing relatives with whom they wish they could have contact.

No matter how close a family is, minor conflicts are common, and during the holidays those things might become magnified by stress, fatigue, and other factors. Things that generally have little or no effect on us become the spark that ignites an argument. Feelings might be hurt. Things might be said that can’t be taken back.

The holidays are meant to be a time of happiness and joy, and in many ways they are for many of us. But no matter what our circumstances are, there are bound to be difficulties during the holiday season.

After the season comes to an end and we no longer have to face these gatherings, it’s time to take care of ourselves. Process how the season went. Spend time with people you care about who help you feel happy and calm. Spend time alone, resting and doing things that relax you.

If those aren’t enough, consider speaking with a professional or calling a hotline. Reaching out for help is always okay if you need it.

And remind yourself that the holidays are over, and better days are coming.

Holiday Stories

When I was in, I think, eighth grade, we were assigned to write a Christmas story for English class. I don’t think my teacher completely expected what I ended up with: a 20-page typed story about a department store Santa who’d seen much better days and a little boy with no family.

I wish I still had that story. It was actually really good considering I was only 13. I think I might poke around in some boxes and see if maybe it is still here somewhere.

I was really happy about that story. So happy I made up my mind I was going to write a Christmas story every year. I figured it wouldn’t be hard, and I would write lots more great stories.

That didn’t happen. The following year, I had to write a story for little kids, which I did. I don’t even remember what it was about; it was another school assignment. After that, it just didn’t occur to me to write Christmas stories anymore.

I’ve written a few Christmas stories as an adult, though I don’t think any of them really struck me as much as that one when I was 13. Two of the stories, though, are on my Free Reads page. One, “Superaser Saves Christmas,” was written last year because I wanted to add a Christmas story to the Free Reads page. The other is the re-release of a slightly revised version of my story “Accepting Me.”

Both of those are free PDF downloads, along with several other non-holiday-related short stories, so I hope you’ll go check them out.

Holiday Self-Care

The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. Sometimes, it’s just stressful going into a crowded store to find just the right gift. Other times, holidays bring back unpleasant or even traumatic memories of holidays past, and it’s more than someone can cope with.

Some of us feel like, in preparation for the holidays, we have to do it all. Shop. Cook. Bake. Send out cards and presents. Talk to people we haven’t seen or heard from since last year.

Light of Christmas in one shop

But none of those things is as important as taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your shopping list, choose only a few things at a time that you’re going to buy, and only think about those things when you’re at the store. Or don’t even go to the store; shop online. You might find unique gifts that way that you wouldn’t find in a store. If you can, ask someone else to do some of the shopping for you.

If you have too many people to contact and visit, take time to think about who you’d most like to talk to or see. You might worry that if you skip Aunt Sally’s Christmas Eve songfest to visit your high school friend who just moved back to the area, Aunt Sally will be hurt and angry. And she might be. But would she be less hurt if you showed up and were bored or antsy because you’d rather be with your friend? Base your decisions on what *you* want and what you feel is right for you, rather than one what others might think.

Most importantly, if the holidays are a traumatic time for you, please reach out for help. Whether to a professional or a friend you can trust to talk to. Otherwise the stress and memories might build into more than you can handle.

In our society, we’re often taught that the holidays are the time when we do everything everyone else wants us to do, and we have to do it better than they would. But that isn’t the case. Sometimes, stepping back and just relaxing and attending to our own wants and needs is not only okay, it’s vital.

Taking Care at the Holidays

For a lot of people, it’s the holiday time of year. And unfortunately, that can mean stress.

Even if you enjoy the holidays–and not everyone does–things can be pretty hectic. Shopping for gifts, if you observe a holiday that includes gift-giving. Wrapping things. Possibly cooking. Possibly traveling. Spending time with family members you might not see at any other time of year. At the very least, even if you aren’t celebrating anything, you have to contend with traffic, commercials, and far too many shoppers at your favorite stores.

Taking care of yourself is important at any time of year, but for some, during the holidays it’s even more important. So if you’re part of the errand-running, cooking, traveling, present-wrapping throngs, remember to make time to rest. Watch a favorite TV show. Read a favorite book. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Take a bath if baths are your thing.

Some people focus a lot during the holidays on what they can–or should–do for other people, but they forget to do things for themselves. You’ll enjoy the holidays a lot more if you’re relaxed and well-rested, so be good to yourself.

Too Much Dark

As fall gives way to winter, the amount of daylight in any given day decreases. For some people, it’s just the way things are. It isn’t pleasant having far more hours of darkness than light, but eventually the solstice passes and the daylight hours start to take over again.

But daylight is important, and for some of us, not having enough of it leads to depression and other issues. Personally, even though I have depression year-round, I find it worsens at this time of year. Even cloudy days during the longer-daylight seasons can impact me negatively, and the days when daylight is short aren’t always easy. In the northern hemisphere, the shorter daylight hours coincide with the holiday season, and I suspect that can make the situation even more difficult to deal with since for some people, the holidays are also a stressful time. I know that’s the case for me.

And, since the shortened daylight periods also coincide with colder weather in some parts of the world, being stuck inside can add to the depression and stress as well.

At any time of year, taking care of yourself is important. At times when depression becomes more prevalent, it’s even more important. For those who struggle with the lack of daylight, certain types of lamps or lights can make the situation better. (I apologize for not doing the research to find more information for those who are reading this.) If holidays are difficult for you, try to lessen the load if you’re someone who hosts get-togethers. If going to family members’ homes is stressful, it’s okay to skip the gathering.

Above all, be kind to yourself, and remember that this time of year ends, and things get better again.