Holiday Blues: Stay Calm and Keep the Season Bright
Tips From USPS to Avoid the Holiday Blues
A box of Christmas decorations crashing to the floor startled me awake from a sound sleep recently. Getting a good night’s rest is rare when you have mischievous cats. I got up to find Ozzy looking as if he had no idea how it had happened, but he was willing to play with some of the sparkling holiday ribbons and jingling bells. Snickers, my older cat, was curious, but preferred to retreat back to his favorite blue blanket to sleep.
Cards from holidays past were among the treasures fanning out from the box. A letter caught my eye when I recognized the petite handwriting of my mother. Reading her words took me back to a place in time I longed for. I miss her every day, but especially during the holidays.
Holiday season is a busy time at the Postal Service — our peak season for mail volume and parcel delivery. I love the look and feel of the holidays each year; packages nearly overflowing in sorting bins, holiday envelopes of red, green and gold sprinkled in with other First-Class Mail, and customers who share their gratitude with delicious home-baked goodies — good tidings of comfort and joy! The workroom starts to look somewhat like Santa’s workshop as postal employees work fervently to make every delivery right. The holidays, no matter which ones you celebrate, seem to bring out the best in people. It is a time to celebrate and embrace the different traditions of our co-workers and friends. It is easy to get caught up in the busy hustle and bustle of peak season chaos. But for some of us, it can make this time of the year hard to get through.
When blue snowflakes start falling
Blue Christmas takes on a new meaning for me. I used to think the song was about loneliness, but now I realize it is much more. When the holidays aren’t quite the same as before, it can be emotionally difficult. We wish Santa could bring us the one thing we can never have again. It can make you feel like you are wearing an ugly holiday sweater in a winter wonderland. Nothing is ever the same, but there are ways to face it and embrace it.
Make a list and check it twice
There are several common causes of holiday blues; the most challenging being money, time and relationships. Pressures to please everyone in any of these can detract from your enjoyment and cause undue stress. Know that it is not wrong to take care of yourself first. If you can identify ahead of time what may become a source of stress or conflict for you this year, you will have a better chance of enjoying the season. The key to reducing stress is to be honest with yourself and others. We only have so much time, energy and money to spend. If we want to spend it well, we need to clarify what’s most important to us and our family.
– Know your limits and give yourself permission to set boundaries. Say “no” when things get too hectic or too expensive. Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself. Get others involved with holiday preparations, and be sure to take some moments of quiet for yourself. Have discussions with those you plan to spend time with to agree on expectations and how to meet them.
– If this is the first holiday without a loved one, your grief may resurface when you least expect it. That is OK! Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect it to be the same. In fact, intentionally make the holidays different. Take a trip, reach out to a friend, or write a letter to your loved one. These strategies can help you to experience the good things that are still in your life.
– Embrace new celebrations while keeping memories as treasures to share. Holidays are a time when we seem to have high expectations of ourselves and others, at home and at work. When expectations are high, we make ourselves vulnerable to disappointment if they aren’t met. And if we find that our reality is out of sync with our expectations…well, we can end up feeling less than jolly.
– Try to focus on ways to beat the stress and not let the stress beat you. If you think about it, a lot of holiday traditions involve our senses and have the power to impact our moods. Baking Mom’s special brown sugar pecan coffee cake, sipping hot apple cider spiced just the way Dad liked it, or reading a favorite book beside a crackling fire can bring back memories and start new traditions.
To you and all your families, your neighbors and your friends…
I love reading letters family and friends tuck inside their cards each year. Not that long ago, holiday mail was the only correspondence we received from many of them. Some notes included funny tales of their annual adventures, some were whimsical notes simply written just to have something to say. What mattered was they cared enough to write. Now we have social media and email, but nothing replaces a handwritten note in a festive holiday card. Writing about the good things that happened over the year is a healthy way to boost your spirits.
Shortly after Mom passed away I realized that as much as I loved reading what others wrote, maybe someone would like to hear from me too. I was right. Now the more notes I mail, the more I get back from others — not just for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza. One of my friends doesn’t mail Christmas cards, but always sends a New Year’s card. Holiday mail rocks!
The colorful holiday cards I mail this year will help brighten mailboxes from Georgia to California, and many spots in between. I’m sure my cats will help get them ready — chasing my pen as I try to write and pouncing on the stack of envelopes to watch them scatter to the floor.
I’m making plans to spend Christmas with my daughter’s family in Texas this year. It will be the first time I haven’t gone back to my childhood home to celebrate the season with friends and family who live there, but that’s OK. I’m going to be with my daughter who can’t travel because she is expecting something sweeter than anything Santa Claus could ever bring. I can hardly wait to see my grandson’s face on Christmas morning. He has no idea this is his last Christmas as an only child. With the warm whiffs of his great-grandmother’s coffee cake baking, hot spiced cider brewing, and cats pouncing merrily about the wrappers and ribbons under the tree, this will be a time filled with new memories to cherish that will help chase away my holiday blues.