Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

The tiny girl clings tearfully to her mother as she refuses to go to school.  She desperately wants to go but fears that death lurks there among her friends.  In another part of town, an elegant senior citizen stares out her window, longing for the thing she fears most, a hug from her granddaughter.  Lastly, a brilliant and kind high school student sits in his therapist’s chair and whispers, “If this is all there is, I don’t want to live anymore.”  About now, you may be wondering, even hoping, that this is the theme of the latest science fiction movie.  Sadly, you would be wrong.  Each of these is an example of our current reality.

Covid exploded into our awareness with more than a threat of illness; it screamed ‘ISOLATE OR DIE!” and created the terror of connection with those we love.  So, we went inside, locked our doors, and lived without the warmth of human contact.  We forgot how to talk to the friendly checker at our neighborhood grocery store; we forgot how to gather with friends in the backyard just because it felt so good; we forgot the simple joy of sharing a moment with a friend.  We replaced community with the cold “safety” of function by electronics…and the loneliness is killing us.

Statistics indicate that 61% of Americans say they feel lonely.  Today 49% of Americans have 3 friends or fewer and 12% have 0 compared to 1990 when 27% had 3 friends or fewer and 3% had 0 friends.  Science indicates a strong connection between loneliness and depression, anxiety, obesity, and suicidal thoughts.  Human life expectancy is reduced more by loneliness than it is by heavy drinking or obesity, and lonely people are more prone to Alzheimer’s disease.  There seems to be a trend here, and it is definitely not a positive one.  Isolation is costing us more than we can pay, and we’re seeking destructive alternatives to feel connected.  “Opioids feel like love.  That’s why they’re deadly in tough times.” Maia Szalavitz.  In 1999, there were 8,000 opioid deaths; in 2021, that figure rose to 75,673.  Yes, you read that correctly; the death toll from opioid overdose skyrocketed to 75,673 in two years.

I’m writing this, dear friends, because I work with the people suffering from the lack of human connection and the inability to feel safe in the world.  We thought we had recovered from the destruction of the Covid pandemic, but we haven’t.  None of us has quite found a way to return to the belief that we are safe and life can be good.  We can’t find a way to reboot and thrive.   So, what’s the answer?

I strongly believe the following quote.  “The good life cannot be found in isolation.  It’s found through deep and meaningful relationships” Nate Hilgenkamp.  I can’t tell each of you what to do because I respect the fact that your life is yours to shape, but I can tell you how I began to rebuild my life and my loving community.  I sought the presence and guidance of the loving Creator of all and once again was reminded that He is always there.  Knowing that I’m never alone gave me the courage to begin again…and again and again if that’s what it takes.

Please know that I am very human and struggle just as each of you does.  As a shy introvert, I do not naturally and easily build human relationships.  So, building a new loving and safe world is a challenge, but one I welcome.  Closing my eyes in a quiet and peaceful space was my first small step toward the world of my hopes and dreams.  I could see more than a new world.  I could see more clearly who I am and what I believe.  I am a total and complete optimist and absolutely believe that God created me to fly.  I believe you were born to fly too.  How about it?  Come fly with me as we shine a light on this kind and brave new world we are creating.

Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

What if, for you, there is no Merry in Christmas?  That seems to be an absolutely ridiculous thought in this season of thanksgiving and peace on earth, good will to men.  Songs like “Joy to the World”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” are playing over the sound systems in multiple stores and are being sung by people, young and old, with big smiles on their faces.  Everyone is happy and loved during the holidays.  They’re all sharing special times and making wonderful memories with their families and friends.  Are they?  Are you sure?

Holiday Depression and Stress:

You’re right to question my statement about “no Merry in Christmas”.  Many people are joyous during the holidays and proclaim, “It’s my favorite time of the year!”  However, for some individuals, it’s a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.  They wonder why everyone else seems to be happy and worry that, somehow, they are depressed and alone because they are unworthy.   As a result, fear blocks the ability to evaluate what may be creating the depression and stress.

Causes of Holiday Depression and Stress:

We humans are each one of a kind.  Our emotional responses reflect who we are, and sadness is a truly personal and unique feeling.  What makes me sad may not affect you at all.  Some typical triggers for holiday sadness are:

  • Fatigue
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Over-commercialization
  • Financial stress
  • Inability to be with one’s family and friends

Tools for Coping with Holiday Depression and Stress:

  • Live and enjoy the present
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do
  • Make a list and prioritize the important activities
  • Limit your drinking since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression
  • Reach out and make new friends
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people
  • Keep track of your holiday spending.  Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over
  • Give yourself permission to make time for yourself

Well, we’ve examined the “No Merry” vs. the “Merry” in Christmas and found some interesting data on the cause of holiday depression and stress and on tools to cope with them.  I learned what I, as a person experiencing the holiday blues, can do to recognize and to overcome this sadness.   Hmmm, helpful but incomplete.

The power of love:

I Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (NKJ)  What if I include the power of love?  What if I include the power of me, as a person experiencing the wonder and joy of the holiday season, and choose to reach out in love to each and every person I encounter?   After all,  I don’t know who’s sad and who’s not.  People often hide their struggles; so I have no way of knowing for sure whether or not they need help.

I’ll need a simple plan, and I think I know exactly what to do.  Smile at everyone.  Say a kind word to everyone.  Now, that’s an idea that could change not just the season, but the world… especially if it’s contagious.