The traditional holiday song tells us, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” It makes it sound easy, as if we can just snap our fingers and have a wonderful holiday season, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Solstice, or something else entirely. Is this a wish that is oversimplified? What about people facing stressors and challenges? What about those experiencing mental illness such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, dissociative disorders, trauma-induced disorders, and much more? Is it possible to have yourself a merry little Christmas despite challenges, even serious mental illness?
I will go out on a limb of a Christmas tree branch and assert that yes, yes it is absolutely possible to have yourself a merry little Christmas no matter what you are facing this holiday season. It’s not a matter of pretending you are perfectly okay and all is right in your world. It’s a matter of choosing your perspective and taking action you want to take.
I recently tried a cycling class. The instructor motivated the class by asking why we were there and how we would make it through the class. I like the way she thinks. Knowing why we do things and how we’re going to get what we want are effective tools we can use to create our life worth living — and our holiday season worth being part of. Here’s how to make yourself merry this holiday season.
Know Your Why
It’s natural to focus on what we don’t’ want. To have a holiday without anxiety would be nice. So would one without relationship problems. Or without depression. Naming all of the things we don’t want for the holidays actually places our focus on those very things; thus, we face barriers in advancing toward what we do want.
Knowing why we want something is an important step in shaping our lives and creating our personal version of a life worth living. Acceptance and commitment therapy calls this the act of defining values. Why do you want to have yourself a merry little Christmas? What does the holiday (or, if you don’t celebrate, what does this time of year in general) mean to you? To make great moments throughout your holiday season, know what you do want and know why you want it.
Understanding your motivation won’t erase troubles, but knowing why you want to enjoy the holidays can provide powerful motivation to get you into the spirit of the season enough to enjoy it. Knowing your why, defining your values and reasons for wanting what you do, is an important part of making yourself a merry little Christmas.
There is a second component that will help you achieve it.
Plan Your How
Once you know exactly what you value about the holiday season and why you value it, you’ll feel the motivation to go further with it. You can plan how you are going to live your values and embrace what you want to this season.
Facing mental health challenges can make us feel powerless, especially during times full of celebrations, people, lights, and noise. When we know what we want and why we want it, we can then take charge of ourselves and our season. We can use our values to shape our actions. Known as committed action in acceptance and commitment therapy, choosing our actions is an empowering way for us to take charge of our holiday season.
There are many things we cannot immediately change; however, there are also many things that we can change and affect. You know what you want. Now ask yourself how you are going to get it. What little steps are you going to take every day to achieve your why? Knowing why you want to have a great holiday and planning how you are going to do it will enable you to make yourself a merry little Christmas.