What to do When Life Doesn't Seem Holly and Jolly

“It the most wonderful time of the year,” “Have yourself a Merry Christmas,” and “Have a holly jolly Christmas.” These lyrics have been blasting at us since we were kids. In fact, it seems like the world is urging us to be merry, thankful, and happy during this time of year. Those are all wonderful feelings. However, how do we make sense of our emotions when we do not feel like it is the most wonderful time of the year, and that holly jolly seems down-right impossible?

Christmas time can lead to unrealistic expectations. The pressure is on to have a Pinterest worthy house, the most amazing family time, and the perfect presents. The reality is that those things are not always possible. Most of us are on a budget. The stress of buying presents for everyone can be a burden and stress. We worry if we are doing enough. Maybe we even worry if we are enough. We see the various social media sites with the perfectly decorated houses, the family adventures, and what appears to be the perfect life. Maybe our thoughts turn negative and start snowballing- spiraling negative thoughts that build. This is the time to stop comparing yourself to others. As a counselor, I can assure you that these photos you are seeing on social media do not match their reality. You aren’t seeing the mess to the side, the tears that took to get the photo, and the reality of their day. Social media is only people’s highlight reel not their authentic versions. If I had to guess, the thoughts that run through your head, tend to be your low points. You see, we tend to have a negative bias for ourselves while watching our friends’ highlights of the day. Instead, use this time to reframe your thoughts. Think about what is going right, and repeat after me, “I am enough.” Now say it again, but mean it this time.

Can we say “busy?!?” Yes, Christmas time equals busy. I don’t know about you, but I have had 2 Christmas parties scheduled at once each weekend since Thanksgiving. We are spreading ourselves thin. Even the holiday cheer part of the season can start to weigh on us. When things get busy, we tend to forget self-care. In addition, to losing our typical self-care rituals, such as yoga, morning runs, or quiet time, we are staying out later, drinking more alcohol and eating foods that we are not accustomed to. This start to take a toll on our emotional, mental and physical health. No wonder we aren’t feeling very merry; we probably aren’t feeling very good!

Shorter days, colder weather, and less time outdoors, means we are more prone for seasonal affective disorder- symptoms of depression that come seasonally. There are several things you can do to help with this, but we are all more prone to have negative shifts in our mood during this time of the year. Make sure to get outdoors when you can, stay active even if you can’t keep your usual outdoor routine, and talk to someone!

Lastly, this time of the year is extremely difficult for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, and/or grieving the life they had once  planned. Christmas tends to show the life that maybe society thinks we should have. This is the vision of the whole family alive and together on Christmas with kids and parents smiling. The truth is that many people struggle with infertility, we sometimes suffer painful losses, marriages end, and life doesn’t always go as we had planned. As a counselor, I tell my clients that the word “should” needs to be out of our vocabulary. “Shoulds” lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of unworthiness. Take this time to release all expectations. All you should do is make it through the day. Find joy and happiness where you can and grab ahold of it fiercely. Find that counselor you trust, family member, or best friend and get vulnerable when you can’t find the positives of the season. 

So forget what the song lyrics are telling you about “merry,” “jolly,” and “wonderful” Christmas. Take this time to feel what you feel. Take in the beautiful moments and lean in for support for the moments that aren’t so merry.

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing counseling and diagnostic evaluations for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, evaluations, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com and read more about her services http://heightsfamilycounseling.com/services-1/


Amy Rollo