JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Tis the Season
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
This is the season of the Plaza lights, brightly colored packages, and so many ‘shopping days until Christmas.’ Mental health practitioners try to stay the tide of depression caused by less daylight, high holiday expectations, and nostalgia about “Christmas past”, or the Christmas that never was. What can you do for yourself, and the people important to you, to make this holiday one of deep gladness and open giving and receiving?
Taking a brief look at seasonal traditions and celebrations of different cultures and religions gives some insight into the life-giving spirit of this time. The Winter Solstice, December 21st, is the time to mark the longest night and the shortest day. It is a time for many cultures to celebrate the path through darkness to light. Christmas marks the time of birth, of light coming into the world, and is often seen as a time of bringing gifts to honor this being of light. Hanukkah celebrates the “Festival of Lights”, honoring the deliverance from the darkness of an enemy to the light of freedom. The Islamic observation of Ramadan is a month of fasting which changes each year, beginning at the new moon of the lunar calendar. It is a time to recharge and strengthen faith and do good deeds, which are believed to have more power this time of year. The month of fasting is ended by three days of celebration of this new life and energy. In the Buddhist tradition, New Year’s Day marks the first day of the first month, the beginning of the year, and the start of spring. It is a time to celebrate a fresh start, make determinations and do good deeds.
It is no wonder that so many people become depressed at this time. Instead of taking time for inner reflection, going into the darkness, to emerge with new life, light, and joy, we run to outer activities, focusing on material things and spending. We often feel bad that we don’t have enough time, money, or energy.
What if you decide to make this month what you want it to be? How do you want to celebrate the season of light, new life, and good deeds in the way that is healthiest for you, your family, and your loved ones? Think about what gives you the most joy? Do you like to give something to someone that takes some effort or thought? Would the people you like to give enjoy a more personal gift? As you think about how you might act differently with your time, energy, and resources, do your creative ideas begin to flow a little more freely? Perhaps you feel a little less desperate, a little more relaxed. There is time to take a moment and think about what you want to do.
The next step might be to have a family meeting or talk with friends and people you share the holiday with. Ask for their ideas and input. Perhaps they would be relieved to do something simpler, more meaningful, and more personal. Get their ideas about things to do.
Once you, your family, and special friends decide what to do, the sky is the limit. You can have fun, be creative and re-energize yourself in ways that feel good to you.
One family I know decided to give one gift that would be a service for another family member. They found that they each paid more attention to each other, spent more time with each other, and developed a closer family.
Children develop self-esteem and a sense of competence by thinking of gifts for others. Giving and receiving heartfelt gifts that are simple and given from the heart would help anyone feel loved and included.
It is a good time for those who ‘always’ like to give, to think about letting other give to them. It is a gift to receive. You are helping someone else feel good about themselves, responsible, thoughtful, and generous. Gracious receiving is as good for mental health as generous giving.
So, this year, fight the dragon of depression, the monster of no time, no money, no energy with the gift of taking time for yourself to choose how you live this season. Find your own unique and personal way to make this season one of light, new life, renewed energy, and the passage from darkness to light.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the Life Weaving Education Curriculum that teaches creative, effective holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in-person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call