The holidays are coming. It's a time of joy, family, love, warmth, excitement, togetherness and relaxation, right??! Nope, not for everyone. For many people, with the holiday season, comes a sense of dread. For some, it’s painful heartache related to a significant loss. For others it's the frustration that comes with having to manage time shared, spent and compromised between families or even disappointment from unmet expectations, illness or familial conflict. For whatever reason, the holidays can be hard-Really hard. And because there is a widespread expectation and pressure that with the holiday’s comes a flood of warm and fuzzy feelings, when you don’t experience them quite that way, you can be left feeling even more sad, alone, anxious, frustrated and empty or even like a failure all together. While you may never feel delighted by the holiday season (and that’s 100% okay!), there are some things you can do to make them more bearable:
Decrease Time on Social Media
Nothing screams “I am not enough” or “I don’t have enough” or “I should” like a little social media surfing-especially during the holidays. The festive and pristinely decorated homes, the families, the smiles, the togetherness, the gifts, the friendships-All of it...Even if you already recognize that social media is not an accurate reflection of one's’ real life and only a small, handpicked selection of people’s most positive experiences or even experiences that aren’t, in reality, so positive after all, it can be incredibly difficult to separate your rational thoughts from the feelings that social media evoke. Decreasing time on social media during the holiday can help minimize those feelings of not being or having enough and thus help minimize feelings of sadness and depression.
Make Time for Yourself and Keep Routines
During the holiday season, it is important to keep routines and make time for yourself. As much as it is possible, maintain regular diet and eating patterns/schedules, exercise patterns and sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep and exercise as well as overeating and overindulging can throw off body chemistry and make you feel more anxious, down, sluggish and frustrated. Making time for yourself isn’t only about exercising, sleeping and eating well though. Make sure you’re doing a few little extra things for yourself like reading a good book, taking a soothing/relaxing bath, meditating, self massage etc..
Check in With Yourself; Say No, Set Boundaries and Maintain Moderation
Decide what YOU want. We, so often, feel pressure to be attend certain events, spend time with family or friends and don’t regularly check in with ourselves about what we want. Just because the expectation is that you attend a certain event or get somewhere at a certain time or even participate or help in someway, does not mean that you HAVE to do so. Spend time with loved ones if you want and don’t, if you are not up for it. It’s okay to say “no,” to set boundaries and skip out on a few things if it helps you to maintain moderation and sanity. Alleviating yourself of some pressure and allowing you to be in control of you (without guilt or judgement) can help with bring about more positive feelings during the holiday season.
Communicating needs, expectations and concerns to friends, family and loved ones is an important element to maintaining balance and sanity over the holiday season. And while you may not get EVERYTHING you want during the holiday, when you’re clear about what you need and want, you’re often less burdened by guilt, pressure and feelings of stress, anxiety and frustration.
Set Realistic Expectations
While it’s usually a good thing to have high expectations, in the case of the holiday season, having high expectations is often a recipe for disaster or disappointment. Be careful not to have unrealistic hopes and wishes for the holiday season-Whether that means familial togetherness, a proposal or simply the expectation to experience feelings of joy and pleasure. Check in with yourself to make sure that what you are hoping for is realistic to you as an individual as well as fits with your previous experiences with family, friends and loved ones. In addition, if you do have expectations for the holiday season, make sure that they are flexible and that you are emotionally prepared for things not going your way.
Celebrate Simple Pleasures
Little things like a hot shower or bath with candles and essential oils (lavender and ylang ylang are good for calming), the warmth of a fireplace (or space heater :), tea with a friend, a movie, a visit to your favorite shop, a conversation with a friend, a favorite food or treat etc. can really make a difference in boosting mood and helping to maintain positive feelings overall. Slow down and take time to indulge in a little TLC or self-care this season-Whatever that means for you.
Maintain Old or Create New Traditions
For those who are experiencing a loss, it may be helpful to create new traditions that incorporate or celebrate the loved one who has passed. Watching family videos, looking at pictures, sharing memories and stories or even being intentional about maintaining old traditions that help to celebrate or remember that person can be a comforting way to celebrate the holiday when you are filled with a sense of sadness and loss. For some, changing things all together by creating new traditions that are unique and meaningful to them can also be a helpful way to cope.
Look for the Beauty Around You
When experiencing the blues, we often see the world from a pretty dark lens. It takes a conscious effort to notice the good things or to see beauty around us-Even when it’s obvious to some. In the winter, it’s cold, often dark and wet outside and just plain uncomfortable. Practicing mindfulness (tied in with a little bit to gratitude), can help to boost your mood during the holiday season. Either make time to go (or look) outside and notice the snow, or the lights, or the way the trees move in the wind, etc. or set a daily mindfulness bell on your phone that reminds you to stop, breathe and just notice what is around you. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can have a hugely positive impact on mood, feelings of fulfillment and relaxation and doing so when things are fast moving, stressful and seemingly unbearable, can be beneficial for one’s overall ability to cope-And can even tie some positive feelings to those otherwise not so happy holidays.