The Holidays Are Like A Magnifying Glass

| Amanda Bloom, LPC

The holidays are like a magnifying glass. It seems that around this time of year whatever is going on in our lives appears to be magnified. Our joys can seem more wonderful, cheerful and exciting. Things seem to be even bigger, better and brighter around this time of year, accelerating the feeling of the “holiday spirit.” However, our sadness and grief can feel deeper, and our problems might appear insurmountable causing increased distress, leaving us feeling more grim and hopeless.

Relationships can feel stronger and more cohesive as couples celebrate the holidays together. However, if the relationship is experiencing problems, these can be exacerbated even more by the stress of the holidays. Couples in a new relationship sense the urgency to define and clarify the nature of their relationship (how serious it is, what kind of gift to get this person, making plans to spend it together and meet the family?) People that do not have a partner might be feeling an intensity of loneliness and a desire to find a significant other to share the special moments of the holidays with someone. Couples who have separated or divorced may be struggling to figure out how to make the transition and how it may impact their children. People are reminded of previous grievances and unresolved conflict with family members and may feel conflicted about how to navigate family dysfunction. Former friendships may now be fueled with discord and resentment. For those that have lost a loved one, the holiday season is a not so gentle reminder of the people they have lost and the traditions of years past.

 Whether we are elated with excitement or dampened with despair, I’m guessing neither one is a completely accurate perception of reality (However, perception IS reality, right? ) For those filled with grief and sorrow, this is a time to remember the loved ones they have lost, the goals they have yet to achieve, the things missing from their life. For some reason, the holiday season seems to be like a measuring stick. Where do we stand now that it is the end of the year? Did we obtain everything that we desired and hoped for this year? Are there still holes that need to be filled in? Items to be checked of our list?

 It is a time of reflection and introspection to examine and reflect on where we are, what we have already accomplished in the passing year, what we are doing and what we still want for ourselves. Of course, I  support personal evaluation and reflection, or I wouldn’t do what I do. However, at what point does our perception become skewed that we lose sight of the overall picture? 

 Due to social media, we are constantly surrounded by everyone’s “highlight reel.”  The ongoing announcements, images and posts about new relationships, engagements, marriages, pregnancies, children, promotions, new cars, homes, jobs and exotic travel.  These can be the milestones that create the composition of our lives. We often compare ourselves and our lives to see if we “measure up”. Are we comparing ourselves to others and what they have? To our own expectations and demands of what we thought our life would be like by this point in time? Why give ourselves a timeline? Just because you do not have something by now or maybe haven’t accomplished that goal yet, does not mean you won’t get there.  

Comparisons are usually not helpful.  As we all know, it just leaves us feeling  unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Life is a process, not just a list of things to check off,  just to say that we are, have, done, or own something. And who is to say that it all has to be done or accomplished now? The holiday season does not have to be a measuring stick that defines our level of success and happiness.

I realize that it is the end of another year but it does not mean we have to lose momentum on our aspirations and visions of our future. Our journey does not need to become stagnant just because it is the end of another year. There is no real timeline. We continue on our path, even if we do not always have complete control over the timing to which our lives unfold. Keep sight of what is important, of what we do have in our lives. Remain hopeful that things will improve, that you will prevail, that you can accomplish your goals. Keep wishing for what you truly desire! Remember that in another few weeks after the holidays have passed, the gifts have been exchanged, our stomachs have digested and the chaos has subsided, the magnifying lens also subsides and hopefully, we will begin to feel more balanced, gain more sensible perspective and reasonable thinking.  Put away the magnifying glass because only you can define what success and happiness means for your life!

 Cheers!

Today's the day to make a change.