Day 3 – The Holiday Emotions

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge)

With the coming end of the proverbial “holiday season”, which for many starts at Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day, comes the annual cycle of emotions many of us feel this time of year.  Similar to how a grieving person goes through various stages of emotions, so too do the majority of us experience a varying array of emotions and feelings during the holidays.

The five stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  Not everyone goes through every stage, but it is meant as more of a mental framework for how we think about the process of grieving and coming to a place of acceptance – i.e., being able to acknowledge and accept the reality of the situation.

Don’t worry, I promise this is going to be a lighthearted post. 🙂

As I returned to work today, and was really wishing I had another entire week off, I came up with the holiday version of the five stages of grief.  I call it The Holiday Emotions Cyle – aka the Holiday Emotions Roller Coaster Ride.

They are as follows, as exhibited by the Target Christmas lady:

  • Denial/Anticipation: You know the feeling.  Just after Halloween, there is a noticeable chill in the air, and everything begins to change, and fast! All the stores switch from orange/black decorations, to red/green.  Candy corns are now half off, while candy canes and turkeys are given prime shelving real estate. Menorahs and dreidels are more or less visible too, depending on what part of the country you live in.  All of these signs of the impending Holidays with a capital “H”.  This can cause a welling feeling of dread for some, and a warm fuzzy feeling in others.  The latter denying the inevitable, and the former eagerly waiting in anticipation for the end of November to come.
  • Bargaining : Grieving people bargain with God, while people in holiday-mode bargain for goods.  Okay let’s be real, unless you’re shopping on Ebay, or buying holiday gifts at a street market, you’re likely not bargaining for anything and will just pay whatever is on the price tag.  However, we all start to go into shopping mode this time of year, willfully or begrudgingly.  And, we are all more inclined to buy way more shit than we actually need for ourselves and others.  Tis the season!
  • Excitement/Exhaustion: Depending on your role during the holidays, by the time you reach the zenith of the season, you are usually either super excited, or super exhausted.  Those with little responsibilities during the holidays (i.e., kids and relatives not hosting parties), are usually the most excited. The ones who are usually exhausted by the time the actual holiday events role around (i.e., parents of kids, and party hosts), are almost too pooped to do much enjoying, and”why can’t this all just end already?!”
  • Depression : All that money.  All that food.  All that alcohol.  Did I really just do that to myself?  What do I have to show for it?  A bunch of crap I have to lug home or return to the store, and a larger credit card balance.  These are the thoughts many of us experience even before the dreidels stop spinning and the stockings come down.  Post-holiday depression sets in early for many. Because so many of us set high-expectations for how we will feel during the holidays, we are often disappointed when those expectations are not met, and we experience a little post-holiday blues because of it.  We experience the highs of the holiday itself, and then the hangover shortly after. Oh yeah, and the mass consumption of sugar and alcohol likely doesn’t help this much either.
  • Acceptance/Resolution : There comes a point in every holiday emotional life cycle when we accept that this year’s Holidays are over, and resolve to make ourselves better in the New Year. This hits me usually just right after New Year’s Day. Time to get real and take down the Christmas decorations, and start to work on all of those resolutions you just made (God help you).  We accept that there isn’t much to look forward to in the next few months (unless you count Groundhog Day), and we begin to resettle back in to our routines of every day life that we so terribly neglected these last number of weeks.  It’s a bittersweet ending for most, but usually leaves one feeling a little smarter from lessons learned in the past year, and a little more hopeful for self-improvement in the year to come.

Author: Zack Hayhurst

New Yorker enthusiast, cartoon caption contest contender, book hoarder, cultural omnivore, writer

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