The emotionally loaded quarter of the year (HICA)

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A couple of weeks ago I was heartened to see a TV commercial for a store that promised they would not put up Christmas decorations this year until after Thanksgiving. Sadly, they stand alone amid the commercial whoop-dee-doo of the season with their noble decision to “celebrate one holiday at at time“.

The holidays give many of us the HICAs: a heebie-jeebie mish-mash of emotions with the ominous realization Here It Comes Again.

Every year, around this time of the year, for more than ten years, I have been publishing variations on a humorous and serious article about how to stay sane, maintain emotional balance, and beat the holiday blues & blahs.

From October through News Year’s the holidays pile up. Many of us get tied in emotional knots caught up between commercial rat-race exhortations, memories, social pressures, family “shoulds” and limited financial resources. 

Included with a more or less psychological explanation of holiday blues, common-sense advice, some tongue-in-cheek observations, and to show that it is actually possible and appropriate to find the lighter side of all this, I included a dozen or so one-liners and eventually built a list of nineteen guidelines.

Here are a few of the jokes:

• You can’t blame Native Americans for being upset.  To the world, Columbus was a great explorer.  To the Native Americans, he was a subdivider.

• I love Halloween.  It’s the only night of the year rock stars look natural.

• It’s all right to scare people at Halloween, but this year I think kids are overdoing it.  I saw one of them dressed up as a heating oil bill.

• Last Halloween there was a knock at the door, I opened it and there were my three kids dressed up as the scariest thing I could ever imagine –my three kids!

• To me, Thanksgiving is a very important time of the year. It’s my stomach’s busy season.

• My wife and I always have an equitable division of labor on Thanksgiving.  She shops, cooks, sets the table, serves, cleans up — and I tell her who’s winning the game.

• Santa Claus makes a list of who’s naughty or nice.  I just hope he grades on a curve.

Here are the guidelines.

1) Join a laughter circle or laughter club.
2) Tell people how you feel.  Do not isolate yourself.
3) Give yourself and everyone else permission to feel less than perfect.
4) Talk openly to a trusted friend or family member.
5) Get some exercise.
6) Avoid excessive use of drugs or alcohol.
7) Do something you’re good at.
8) Function within your routine.
9) Do something nice for yourself.
10) Look at your unhappy feelings logically.
11) Stay away from depressed or emotionally upset people.
12) Give yourself some quiet time.
13) Maintain contact with your counselor or support group.
14) Keep your holiday expectations realistic. Expect the intensity of holiday togetherness to breed some irritability, and take it in stride.
15) Give added attention to the things you enjoy.
16) Don’t take on more responsibility than you can comfortably handle.
17) Skip the commercialized pressures. Don’t go into debt for gift-giving. Give what represents the real spirit of the season: your time, attention, and caring.
18) Negotiate to get a reasonable amount of whatever you need (time, attention, support). At the same time, be flexible about the way things are done. Build some change into family rituals.
19) Engage in prayer or meditation that suits you. Try it both alone and in community.

Click here to read all of the advice, all of the jokes and all of the guidelines, and please pass it on.

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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and