I am glad you have joined me as we embark on a discussion regarding the very real experience of depression: how it presents, how it is often experienced, and how we can take very real steps to help combat it and it’s impact on our daily lives.
Depression often accompanies unmet expectations.
Whether we voice them or not, we all have expectations for how we think things will go, what will happen, and how we will be affected. This is especially true during the holidays. We often carry with us into the holiday season expectations of what we think the holidays will be like. We perceive how things should be. Yet others may not have the same perspective or expectations of what the holidays should be like, how events will transpire, or what their role will be. Others cannot see our mental picture that depicts those expectations, or the role that we anticipate they will play in our anticipated scenario.
I have a young son who enjoys “creating things,” and as a parent, I came to realize when he was very young and wanted my help making or creating things, that I usually didn’t have the same picture in my mind as he did of what things would look like. That frequently resulted in his frustration when I had difficulty helping him make his creating meet his expectation of what it would look like when all was said and done.
This often happens during the holidays as well. For example, we often don’t even realize it, but we rehearse in our heads what the meals will taste like, what will be said when company visits and how conversations will flow, and how others will react when we give them the “perfect gift.” We also often have expectations of ourselves: finding the perfect gift for each person on our list, sending out the perfect Christmas card or family photo, making the perfect meal, or having the house white-glove clean for company.
We cannot often control what happens to us, nor can we control others’ responses. When our expectations do not come to pass, we can be left disappointed, frustrated, angry, or depressed.
One way to combat depression during the holidays is to release our expectations; Release our expectations of ourselves and others.
This year I lightened up my expectations of myself. The holidays snuck up on me and time pressures have been great. So instead of baking my usual twelve different types of cookies, we baked two: each of my sons’ favorites.
I saw a Christmas card photo of a family’s three toddler-age children, each holding one letter to spell out the word “Joy.” But instead of a perfect smiling family, all three children were crying. That parent knew how to release expectations for the perfect Christmas card. And truthfully, I probably enjoyed it more than the perfect scenario, because I got a good chuckle from it.
By releasing our expectations of ourselves and others, we can more easily take things as they come, and enjoy the experience rather than wishing it was something other than what happened. It shifts our perspective from the negative (focusing on what didn’t happen the way we wanted or expected) to the positive (focusing on the positive of what occurred).
In the Bible it is said “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).
What expectations are you willing to let go of so that you can be more able to enjoy this holiday season?
Great post! I have never heard this discussed before. And it seems like the kind of thing that people have but don’t realize they have.
You’re right. We don’t often pay attention to what our thoughts and our expectations are. But in taking the time to consider what they are, we can change, modify, or get rid of them all together.
This is so true. Christmas gets so much hype, it’s especially hard for folks who are prone to depression. Simplifying is part of the solution. If we let ourselves off the hook for what we perceive has to be done or how we “should” be feeling, that goes a long way toward feeling better and finding some joy. I enjoyed your post.
Thank you for stopping by Laura. I think we have to be clear about the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Christ was born on Christmas day in a lowly manger made of hay…he wasn’t born in a palace and adorned with a crown or regal robe. Celebrating Christmas is a good thing. Having unrealistic expectations of ourselves, others, and God can lead to huge disappointment. I enjoyed your post on a related topic at: http://laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-disappointing-christmas-gift.html Thanks for sharing!!
Such an excellent reminder to release expectations. I like the photo you described. This goes along with the message God’s been giving me the past few months, “Let go…” so I can fill in the blank also with expectations. Life is too unpredictable for expected outcomes. Blessings!
Very good. Our expectations are so often an issue – and not just at Christmas!
Thanks Mare! We have to take a hard look at ourselves and critical review our thoughts to become aware of the expectations we have…only then can we change them or let them go. Hope Prevails! Michelle
Enjoyed your post. The clear way you explained one of the root causes, our expectations. And the practical advice you utilized yourself, simplifying. Thank you for sharing. I had to share as well.