Holiday sanity in a hard year

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Holiday sanity in a hard year.

Covid-19, loss of jobs, paycuts… no one could have foreseen the rollercoaster that was going to be 2020 and factored that in while making New Year Goals

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

The Christmas season is here. While many are ecstatic that the rough year that has been 2020 is finally coming to an end, equally many are feeling pressurised and anxious about the festive period and its associated commercialisation.

With many Kenyans having lost their jobs due to job cuts and companies closing down, this festive  time, often characterised with pomp and merry making is sure going to be different.

“I lost my job in July this year. It has been hard, especially since most of my benefits went into servicing the loans I had, which left me with little loose change.

It has been a steep learning curve for me, learning to live on so little and explaining to my wife and two children why we cannot afford the things we used to.

I have seriously considered moving to my rural home, but that would worry my aging parents unnecessarily,” Laban Njoroge shares as he gives me a ride to the workplace. 

He shares candidly about the fear of not being enough for his immediate and nuclear family since he is the breadwinner.

He talks of feelings of shame and guilt at the loss of income despite it not being his fault.

He talks about a colleague who has not yet told the wife he lost his job and has simply been taking loans to act in lieu of the salary he is still supposedly getting.

It is going to be a tough festive period for many, Laban declares.

The festive season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder.

The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands — travelling, shopping, cooking meals, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

And with Covid-19 positive cases fast rising in the country, you may be worried about your health and that of  your loved ones.

“Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realise  it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.

You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” says Beatrice Nderitu, a sociologist.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they didn’t live up to all of your expectations.

“Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they are feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too,” she adds.

Allan Lawrence, a leading counselling psychologist, coach and author agrees that we will need new measures to deal with the hardships that this year has wrought. 

Where peace is

“Understand that peace is intrinsic and never a feeling, but a decision. Your peace is an inside job and once you know that, you won’t expect people to determine it for you,” he explains.

He explains that we can be more self-assured about ourselves such that our identity is not found in the paycheck we provide for our families or the careers we have, but is something broader, yet more innate.

Without a clear self-identity, one can easily get lost in the crowd despite your uniqueness. 

Allan says there is danger of comparisons as  it robs one of being truly happy.

There will always be people doing better than you are, hence if you hinge your self-worth on external competitiveness, you will always fall short.

“It is important for anyone struggling with guilt and shame due to job loss or little money to work through that and instead refocus their energies on getting their head back into the money game.

It is also important that they seek support from people who will validate them and rebuild their flagging confidence,” he advises.

Allan says it’s important to curate your festive pod with people who will not make you feel pressured to spend by feeding your areas of self-doubt.

The goal is to stay sane through this period and come out into next year, sane, happy and with little to no regrets.

Compromising on your standards in order to fit in might be exhilarating in the short term, but it will bring you angst and stress in the near future. 

While this period of emotional recovery may differ from person to person depending on emotional resilience and personality, it is important to cap it and focus on building yourself back up. 

Acceptance and celebration

While we normally take the end of the year to celebrate the things we achieved,Allan says  this year is also a good time to celebrate the things we still have and are grateful for.

However, we might need a different marker of success for such a hard year as this.

“No one could have foreseen the rollercoaster that was going to be 2020 and factored that in while making the New Year Goals.

Keep that in mind as you evaluate yourself on a scorecard that does not take in to account what you have surmounted. Celebrate the small milestones such as keeping a roof over your head despite not getting that car or land that you wanted. Do not beat yourself up,” he sagely advices.

“Seasons change, adjust accordingly while embracing the person you are in each,” he says in conclusion.

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