By Tonya Elliott-Walker, LMFT, Morningstar Counseling & Wellness Center
The holidays are supposed to be a time of giving and spreading good cheer. Why is it then that so many people experience great stress and inner turmoil during this season? Perhaps it is actually that we have so many expectations of ourselves and others that go unmet during this time, such as, being able to buy certain gifts for people or of receiving certain gifts, or throwing the perfect holiday party. Sometimes visiting relatives can even bring up past frustrations and make us feel anxious.
Whatever happened to the true spirit of Christmas? Why do we feel that we need to give something of monetary value to so many people, even minor acquaintances? If true giving is from the heart then we should be giving heartfelt gifts, not gifts to impress someone or out of obligation. Why do we feel obligated to visit distant relatives if we have so much anxiety about it? Letting go of ego and embracing humility is what brings us into the Christmas spirit. Giving with meaning and giving with love and joy in our hearts is what makes Christmas time special. If you must go and visit family, let go of that resistance and be joyful and present with them.
The “Five Love Languages” is a great book for self teaching on this topic. The author, Dr. Gary Chapman, says that we often give love in the way that we wish to receive it. We all have a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. What we need to learn is to give love in the way in which it can be best received, as well as, communicate how we can best receive it. The Five Love Languages are summarized as follows:
• Receiving Gifts-Giving a thoughtful gift from the heart.
• Acts of Service-Instead of adding to the consumer frenzy give massages or coupons to mow someone's lawn, or help your mom finish that DIY project she's been working on all year.
• Words of Affirmation-Make sure that you tell your loved ones that they are loved and appreciated. Don't ever assume that they just “know”.
• Quality Time Be present with your family, play games and be attentive. Be joyful with them.
• Physical Touch-Give lots of hugs and kisses. Let them know you enjoy being close.
Slow down and evaluate what actually makes someone feel loved and appreciated. It's not always a monetary gift. A simple hand-made gift or an act of service can have much more meaning to someone that a store bought gift. Try to figure out which love language your loved ones speak and step out of your comfort zone and give in the way that will speak to their hearts.