Thursday, November 14, 2013

I used to enjoy the holidays... a reflection

As we roll on towards Thanksgiving, Christmas and other end-of-the-year holidays here in the USA, I am always reminded of how this is not a "happy" time for many HSPs.

"On paper," this is supposedly the season of lights, cheer and good will towards all... for HSPs, it can be something very different.

If you'd asked me twenty years ago about my general dislike and dread of holiday festivities, I would probably have looked at you cross-eyed if you'd tried to explain to me that it wasn't me being anti-social, but part of a personality trait.

Of course, I'm not trying to argue that being a Highly Sensitive Person makes you dislike the holidays, simply that there certain aspects of the season that can feel very overwhelming for HSPs.

For some it's an actual "values issue," related to feeling repulsed by the cornucopia of commercialism that has come to represent this time of the year. The Holidays sometimes feel like they have become a game, and "the person who spends the most money wins." For HSPs concerned with social justice and creating an egalitarian world, it's just outright offensive and a reminder that our species-- at least here in the West-- are on a very misguided track.

More likely, though, the issue is that this time of the year brings a higher stress level. Many HSPs like to keep fairly quiet lifestyles, and the holidays are a very "out" time of the year... with everything from office parties to family gatherings... some of which "force" people together for "forced cheer" in groups that would just as well have nothing to do with each other. HSPs are not good at pretending to be happy with something they are not. Add to that travel during an extremely busy time, shopping during an extremely busy time... and you have a recipe for something we'd rather avoid.

That said, I'm not going to dwell on the underlying reasons why HSPs struggle with the Holidays, nor offer solutions. However, if you're interested I'll suggest reading an article a wrote a few years ago entitled HSP Living: Tips for Dealing with the Noise and Stress of the Holiday Season which has more practical tips for HSPs.

What mostly made me sit down and write today was the realization that I used to enjoy the holidays, and I was trying to pinpoint why. And when.

Upon reflection I realized that the common thread of holiday seasons I have enjoyed was "simplicity." That is, those holiday seasons were marked by very little planning and preparation... or they happened so long ago (in childhood) that I was not yet aware that it took a lot of "work" to make the holidays wonderful. Even so, the Christmases I remember most were the ones where it was "just us" as opposed to something large and "fancy."

I also spent a couple of Christmases practically by myself, and in spite of the "social myth" that this is the time of the year for togetherness... I was actually very happy during those couple of years... even with some people giving off the vibe that they were "feeling sorry" for me.

And maybe therein lies a functional holiday lesson for those of us who are Highly Sensitive: Keep it simple! When you do, you're also more likely to return to the original "reasons" for the season-- love and light-- than the commercial ones.

It's not the actual season what makes us feel overstimulated, it's the "expectations" and wealth of things that seem to be "required" of us that's the issue. When we step away from those and allow the holidays to unfold in a way that feels meaningful to us, things get a lot better.

Here's wishing you a "simple" Holiday Season!

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