Thoughts from Tana ...<br>
It may surprise you to learn that people become depressed during happy times, but they do. This is particularly true during the Christmas holidays. I think it is partly because we hold an unrealistic view that we must be totally happy during the season. Not only is it unrealistic, but it is so defeating and almost always guarantees disappointment.
The older we get, the more likely we are to think about earlier years when things seemed to go smoother, and we tell ourselves that we were happier then. I was talking with a woman the other day as I sat down on a bench to take a rest before going to the next store in the mall. She was quite obviously a downhearted person. Her daughter came up and asked if she could take the time to go to another store before they left. She looked at her daughter and answered flatly, “Go on, but hurry; I haven’t got all day.”
I grinned in spite of myself because it reminded me of the times my mother had repeated those same words to me. I said, “Your response reminded me of the good old days when I went shopping with my mother.”
Without smiling, she replied, “It has been difficult for me to get any Christmas spirit this year. There won’t be anybody at my house this year but my two kids and my husband. Christmas isn’t even here, and I’ll be glad when it has come and gone.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have said it, but without thinking I did: “Sometimes thinking too much about the past can cause us to miss today’s happy moments.”
As I spoke I thought about my late mother-in-law. We were making candy and listening to Christmas carols when she looked at me and said, “This time of year can make me feel very sad, but if I dwelt on it I’d miss the words to the beautiful music. Turn it up.” I did and we both hummed.
The evening before I spoke to the woman in the mall I had been listening to those same carols and thought about the happy days my mother-in-law and I had spent together. Oh, how I missed her. For a moment I was depressed, but then I straightened my shoulders and told myself, “Listen to that lovely music.”
There is another cause of holiday depression. With the season, our ordinary routines are subject to change. We are creatures who need consistency in our lives. With the increased activities, we must forego our ordinary routines and adapt to change. I have always found this to be difficult to carry out. I don’t think I am alone, and the closer Christmas gets, the more frequently I hear the chorus of, “I love Christmas, but I’ll be glad when it is over.” It kind of reminds me of how new mothers can’t wait until the baby sleeps through the night.
It’s funny how once their children have reached each milestone, mothers begin to realize how precious those days were.
Then there is another cause for holiday depression, overextension. We take on new projects and then become overwhelmed with anxiety that we won’t get them done in time for Christmas. One year my sister-in-law decided to make bathrobes for her three sisters, her mother and her mother-in-law. On Christmas Eve she was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing them. On Christmas Day she was so exhausted she fell asleep at the dinner table.
We can literally think our way into holiday depression, and I am convinced we can also think our way out of it. The holidays will be merrier if we keep our expectations realistic, recognize that our routines will be disrupted and go with the flow, keep it simple and expect less of ourselves, be receptive to the season’s happiness, limit our thoughts about days gone by and allow ourselves to find pleasure in the present.