Follow these tips for kindling your holiday spirit

Holidays can be stressful for many different reasons, including financial stress, sickness, problems at home, overwhelming anxiety or loneliness.  Many of us imagine the holidays to be as joyful and magical as possible, as perfect as a picture in a magazine. Though many people find faith in holidays, the constant feeling of “I need to be happy, joyful and grateful” can be a lot of pressure. In the middle of the “most wonderful time of the year,” many face a dilemma or difficulty. How can joy be found?

First of all, recognizing that the commercial side of holidays is one of the biggest killers of joy. A small 2021 survey of 500 U.S. adults from healthcare service found that shopping for gifts was the biggest stressor of the season. Most people realize that the holidays in December are not about gifts and such, but there are certain factors that have made it so hard to avoid the expectations of gift giving. How do you avoid this particular pitfall?

To start,  prioritize what this holiday season really means to you, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or even just Boxing Day. Is it family time? Maybe you really love the time off from school or work? Find gratitude in those things that mean the most. If it is gifts, can they be handmade? Do movies and music bring you joy? Focus on those things.There are ways of dealing with the pressure of holidays and expectations.Setting realistic expectations is important. Certain situations that deal with how much money you use can affect the options of the holidays. 

Of course, you should still try to think outside the box or be creative. So let’s look at some easy ideas. First, if you are a teen, not paying too much attention to commercials  and advertisements is one good way to avoid stress about wanting things you don’t really need. Those commercials tend to instill consumer pressure and portray an overall unrealistic Christmas just to get people to buy and buy and buy. For parents in financial difficulties, making sure that even your very young kids avoid commercial television is a good idea, as they will end up not caring too much either about particular toy of the year must haves. Avoid the commercials by just letting your kids watch DVDs or Netflix as a way to have a commercial free zone. 

Concentrating on activities that really do bring joy and fulfillment is key to overcoming holiday blues. Spending more time with family and friends, like having game nights, movie nights, baking cookies and going on walks to see holiday lights through the days leading up to the holiday can bring joy.

Letting people know you are having a hard time during the holidays for various reasons can also help a person work out their feelings. Think about who to seek help from. It does not necessarily have to be a professional. Look toward pastors, teachers, friends, school counselors and family. Many people have dealt with these problems during holiday times. You are not alone.

Teacher, coach and Pastor Rob Chagdes of Cedar Falls has much joy, and his spirit can be contagious at times, as he leads the speech team.

Chagdes answered these questions about joy and holiday spirit.

What do you recommend for young people to do who are feeling low at holiday time to lift their spirits and find joy even in difficult times?

When we are feeling low, the answer to lifting our spirits is to pivot our perspective. We don’t need to try and forget our circumstances or to pretend they aren’t what they are. We will find joy when we can focus less on ourselves and choose joy. We can do this by doing things that bring us joy, whether it’s listening to music, having some ice cream or playing with our dog. We do things that bring us joy and also be around people who bring us joy. Reach out to someone who brings you joy and ask them to hang out. Take a risk and reach out to someone who might not even know you’d enjoy being around them. Finally, one thing that can really lift our spirits as we take the focus off ourselves is to care for others. Write an encouraging note to someone who would never expect it, buy gifts for someone who might not get one, find a way to help someone. When we take our eyes off ourselves we are not denying that things are hard, but we are not letting those things define us and we are not letting them steal their joy.

Can you recommend any groups or organizations that can help young people who are experiencing difficulties at this time of year?

There are some great churches in the Cedar Valley, and the Boys and Girls Club are always offering great things. I encourage people to try new things when they are in a tough season. You could sign up for an event at the library, get involved in a school activity, volunteer at the NE Iowa Food Bank. Do things that lift up your eyes from the challenges and cause you to see others, impact others and connect with others. 

In conclusion, even during tough times, there’s always a way. You can always find bits of happiness to get through a particularly tough time. Acknowledge your feelings and reframe your situation, whatever it might be. Helping others can also help yourself. This holiday season be good to yourself in as many healthy ways as you can: sleep, exercise, play games, get creative, listen to the sounds of the season and before you know it you’ll be spreading joy to others who are having a hard time too.

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