It is tough to be blue during the holidays. Amid the hustle and bustle of the pre – Hanukkah and Christmas hype are many folks for whom the season is nor joyous or bright.

Although many of us look forward to Christmas as a time for gifts and to celebrate family and friends, there are many others for whom the occasion is difficult and even painful. Death , divorce, financial troubles , loneliness , depression and failing health are but a few of the reasons which keep many folks from experiencing the full joy of the holiday.

While we can’t make things all better when we encounter someone who is blue, being aware of his or her plight can help us to be more sensitive and compassionate in our interactions. It is important to remember that what folks who are blue really need during this painful time is empathy and understanding. Here are some tips to help you improve your empathy skills :
  Don’t assume everyone is in the holiday spirit. When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, before you say anything, remember that it is possible they may not be in a holiday mood. Largely because of the media hype, we often just take it for granted that Christmas is a happy time for everyone. Obviously it isn’t. Grief and sadness are bad for business. Thus, advertising creates an unrealistic image of the time and doesn’t pay attention to the experience of those who are blue. So, we need to make a special effort to keep a realistic perspective about the season and not to forget about those who are hurting.
Check things out and ask how they are going. Christmas is about showing kindness to people we meet. Before talking about all of your wonderful holiday plans or experiences, take a moment and ask yourself whether the person really seems interested .
Pay attention to the person’s response to you. After your initial greeting, notice the person’s body language and how and what they say back to you. How we respond can vary quite a bit depending on whether the person’s mood is upbeat or down.
Don’t try to cheer up someone who is blue. While it is common to try to cheer up some who is down, it is usually not very helpful. Ironically, attempts to be positive and cheerful are experienced by the “blue” person as gestures to cut off a person’s feelings or silence their expressions of pain or upset.
Be kind and be prepared to shift gears and just listen. Sometimes the best gifts you can give to someone who is blue is yourself. Taking some time to just be present with them and allowing the person to talk is a powerful and helpful moment.

The holiday season is a time for love and joy and sharing. It is also a time for unexpected blessings and miracles. Remember that by giving the gift of empathy in your chance encounters , you can be the bearer of love and joy to someone who needs and longs for it.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 12 19 2017

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