Is it too much effort to pretend to be happy?
by Wendy Keller, sometimes-reluctant party goer
Oh, yippee. It’s the holidays. A chance to spend money you may not have, doing things you may not feel like doing, with people you may not like all that well. For the surprising majority of people, the holiday season is stressful, frustrating or just plain overwhelming.
If you add the holidays to the problems you’re already dealing with in your regularly scheduled life, you’ve got a perfect recipe for increased unhappiness, even depression. But contrary to the urban myth that depression and suicide increase during the holidays, it’s actually in the first few months after that researchers see a brief spike (New York University, Lagone). Maybe that’s because that’s when the credit card statements show up.
How do you make it easier on yourself to cope with the inevitable holiday stress?
The #1 tip is to harness the power of No. Saying No means you have healthy boundaries; that you’ve got limits; that you’re aware of what’s best for you; that you are adult enough to take care of yourself; that you’re done being bullied. After my kids died, for a long time I avoided anything that was supposed to be a party. It just hurt too much to “fake” things I didn’t feel. My heart didn’t have time to listen to small talk. Boy, I found out who my real friends were – and weren’t!
“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch, statesman, financier
So go ahead. Look in a mirror and form your lips into the word No. Practice it a few times. See if you can use it in a sentence. It gets easier with practice. Your #1 job is to take care of yourself first. Even if the kid’s teacher wants help making costumes and your aging parent is feeling worse and your sister wants you to make the dessert for her holiday party. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, considering the stress, emotional trauma and drama you’re going through in your life. Set boundaries that support you being healthy.