Christmas and Mental Health

December 5, 20230

By Thomas Lester, LPC, ALPS

It is that time of year again, where the snow begins to fly, we place decorations outside, and deck the hall is anticipation of the biggest holiday of the year. We go out and try to buy thoughtful gifts, or make something special for our friends, family, and loved ones. We watch the Christmas specials and feel as though we are children again. Some of us must place an elf in funny and bizarre situations every morning. Yet somehow in this beautiful time of year we allow holiday stress to arrive like a certain visitor from the north pole. In the next few paragraphs there may be spoilers to things you may not have seen, Let’s begin.

Much like good ole Charlie Brown said, “Christmas has become too commercialized”. We feel the pressure to find the newest, latest, and greatest present to put under the tree. We add pressure to ourselves we don’t need to. Sometimes it’s ok to let the season take place. Stop trying to make it perfect, because truly nothing in life is perfect. Sometimes its ok to take a deep breath, meditate, and reframe the Christmas season as a time of love and caring. Not rampant consumerism.

That being said, let’s take a moment to take a deep breath and look at the joy and lessons we can take from our favorite Christmas specials. First up “it’s a wonderful life”, one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time. It helps us to see George Bailey facing the trials and tribulations of the world. He holds on to his hope that he would one day live his dreams. Only to see them fall apart before his very eyes. Yet every step of the way he is blessed by what he needs in life not what he wants. By the end we see that he has riches he never knew he had.

Next, we have “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. We see how holiday stress can affect someone and learn a valuable lesson about being kind. In my office sets a small replica of the tree to remind me of this. “A Christmas story”, we see poor little Ralphie wanting what we all do, the perfect toy for Christmas. We see him try and fail again and again to get this message across. In the end it is his father who seemed so disconnected, he was the one who listened to Ralphie. In the sequel, “A Christmas Story Christmas”, We see adult Ralphie facing the most painful lesson in life, the loss of his father, and in the end realize that his father always was the most grounded person in his life. Getting everyone exactly what they wanted and was stolen from the Car.

The last two are stories of redemption. The first is the story that reinvented history, “A Christmas Carol”. The story focus on a heartless man named Ebenezer Scrooge. At this point in his life, he focuses only on money, he turns his back on his only surviving relative, underpays his clerk, and has a vile hatred of people. As his story progresses, we see his greatest hatred is of himself. This story is a perfect metaphor for change. Scrooge like all of us must face his past, see what the future holds, realize we need to make changes in the present to have a better future. His redemption serves to remind us that we all can make positive changes that effect our lives and the lives of those around us.

The last story is that of the Grinch. Dr. Suess gave us a story of redemption in “how the Grinch stole Christmas”. The main character tries to destroy his perceived understanding of Christmas meaning. As he takes what he thinks the Whos value, he learns that they value the true meaning. Instead of seeing them upset over things, he saw them come together in love or one another. This cause him to change his mind, his heart to grow as he sees his wrong assumptions and makes a true change.

Christmas time is steeped in deep traditions, from “old Appalachian Christmas”, which is December 25th to January 6, just like the twelve days of Christmas, to more recent Black Friday sales. We sometimes must slow down and realize that with all the stress, with all the aggravation, and running. We need to slow down and realize what it represents. The greatest redemption ever. Through Jesus coming to earth, his ministry, his taking on of sins, and conquering of death hell and the grave. This season is designed to celebrate him, to love everyone as he does, and remember the greatest gift ever. This is best captured in the sentient of the Elvis Presley song “if every day was just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be.”

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