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Searching for Joy

By Rachel Martin, LMFT

It’s the most wonderful, fun, busy, (overwhelming?) time of the year… Anyone else find that you’re struggling to concentrate or follow through on basically everything lately? Our desire to have a “normal” holiday season has us all running in 12 directions at once to pack in everything we missed out on last year. In theory this sounds wonderful and joyous. In reality, it feels overwhelming. For many of us, especially parents, it’s been really hard to enjoy the decorating, cookie-making, tree finding, and all of the other exciting things that used to put us in that cozy and warm holiday spirit.

Some of us might be questioning ourselves. Am I depressed? Is pandemic anxiety going to ruin all of the things that used to make me happy? Many of us are feeling pressured to smile brightly and say things like “I’ve missed this! This is so much fun, isn’t it?” In the meantime, our inner voice is saying “Ugh. I should be enjoying this. What’s wrong with me?”

Let me start by saying this: Breathe. It’s ok to be tired. Now breathe again.

This “return to normalcy” was always going to be hard. Things aren’t how they were before, and they never will be in many ways. This holiday season is spotlighting and intensifying the dissonance between what our lives used to be and what they are now. These feelings of overwhelm and lethargy are our body’s cues to us that we’ve got to stop and grieve for a moment. It’s okay to feel differently. It’s okay to pause and think about how it used to be. During this reflection, we’ve got to be gentle with ourselves. We are navigating and adjusting to what our world looks and feels like now. This is sometimes a somber, painful process. But it is temporary.

So, take a moment to breathe and tell yourself that it’s okay. It’s okay to not put up all of the decorations this year; maybe just put out the really meaningful ones. It’s okay to spend the night snuggling on the couch, watching sappy holiday movies with your family. Take a moment to really BE with your kids. It won’t look and feel the same as before. And we can make room for a different kind of joy this holiday season.

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