Red and green and blue

Meredith Flynn —  December 12, 2013

200371625-001For many at Christmas, ‘merry and bright’ doesn’t come easy

COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”

Charlie Brown is in a holiday funk. By the end of his half-hour special, his spirit is lifted by a spindly tree
and a retelling of the Christmas story by his friend Linus, with blue blanket in tow of course.

It’s not always that easy, or that quick. For millions struggling with the holiday blues, Christmas joy is hard to find. But there is hope, David Jeremiah wrote in a column titled “Wonderful Counselor.”

“Our Lord Jesus is the Christ of Christmas present, and He wants to deliver you from the Christmas blues, too.”

Thanksgiving at Christmas
Holidays are difficult for people for a number of reasons, Christian counselor Molly Ondrey said. Some may be overwhelmed by busyness or the financial pressure of the season. Others who have lost loved ones face a “new normal” at Christmas. Unmet expectations of what the holidays should look like can bring on the blues.

“They think back to a happier, merrier time,” said Ondrey, who works at Pathways Counseling in central Illinois. If the usual traditions of gathering around the Christmas tree or opening gifts together have changed, she added, people ask, “Now what?”

And it may not be obvious that someone is struggling.

“A lot of times, what people do is isolate when they’re depressed,” Ondrey said. They might need a
friend to reach out. A church family can help with the loneliness of the holidays by creating new
memories. Offer to be a listening ear, or to help someone put up a Christmas tree, or invite someone to
be part of your Christmas celebration, she advised.

Some churches plan a “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night” service as a time to remember loved ones they’ve lost, and to focus on the hope Jesus brought into the world.

Finding a new focus is important in combating holiday depression, Ondrey said. Falling into “automatic
negative thinking” happens frequently when people are feeling down. Focusing on the blessings God has given, new memories that can be made, and the birth and hope of Christ might help improve a perspective.

I’m just stressed
Charlie Brown’s complaint – “I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel” – can result from holiday busyness too. The American Psychological Association reported in 2011 that up to 69% of people feel strapped for time and money during the holidays, and 51% feel pressure about the gifts they give and receive.

Create memories that are cost-effective, Ondrey advised. Watch a Christmas movie, go caroling, read
the Christmas story in Luke 2, go on a drive to check out holiday lights, or attend a special church service.

She also gave some practical tips for fighting off the holiday blahs. For example, eat healthy and stay active. And take charge of your schedule by saying no when needed.

Consider reaching out for extra help if holiday depression is interfering with your normal, everyday functioning at work or home, Ondrey said, if your depression occurs for an extended period of time, if you have thoughts of self-harm, or if your support system is limited.

For more information about Pathways, a ministry of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, call:
• (618) 624-4060 | Metro East
• (217) 483-2222 | Central Illinois
• (618) 382-3907 | Southeastern Illinois

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.