Not everyone feels jolly during the holidays. In fact, for some, it’s the most difficult time of the year. The holidays can be associated with bad childhood memories, it can highlight current financial hardship, it can be painful due to the recent loss of a family member or friend, and it can accentuate feelings of isolation and depression. And on top of that, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stress of it all! If any of this sounds familiar, and you’re finding yourself succumbing to the holiday blues, you are not alone. Here is what you can do to brave the holidays this year.
You are not obligated to be happy and cheerful during the holidays. Denying and avoiding your feelings will at best, postpone the problem, and at worst, exacerbate your feelings—neither of which are ideal scenarios. If you accept that you are unhappy, and understand that you have valid reasons to feel this way, then you can do something about it.
Know what you can and can’t do. The holidays are demanding—work, kids, school, social obligations, and finances are all weighing on you at once. So expect that this period is going to be challenging, and at the same time, set boundaries for yourself and limits on others based on what you are willing to do and what you can do given your current situation and state of mind. If you don’t know your limits, others won’t either so be honest with yourself. If you find that you have over-extended yourself, keep readjusting your limits as you go along.
Sometimes all there is to do is give yourself comfort. Do soothing, calming activities like have a bath, go for a walk, listen to a relaxation or mindfulness exercise, watch a movie, light scented candles, snuggle up to a teddy bear, have a massage, or read a magazine. You may find that you feel guilty taking time out for yourself, just notice the feeling and then remind yourself that being kind to yourself is an important way to get through the holidays.
Lift Your Spirits
A good laugh can be a much needed reprieve from the holiday blues and can help us take life and ourselves less seriously. For a dose of laughter, watch your favorite comedy, check out some stand-up live or online, read anything by Oscar Wilde, or Tina Fey, or have a look at the latest cat antics on YouTube.
If finances are getting you down, take advantage of all the free holiday activities on offer in your city or town. They might include checking out holiday lights on houses, street decorations, religious services, and local holiday concerts. Be practical with your gift-giving—suggest a Secret Santa process for big families or groups of friends so you only have to buy one gift at a set price rather than one gift for every person—both a cost and time-saving solution.
Research shows that kindness toward others benefits the recipient as well as the benefactor. So contributing to others’ happiness actually leads to a boost in your own sense of well-being, both physically and emotionally. So get out there and do something nice for someone else, it can be as simple as giving someone a compliment to volunteering for a organization. See the following websites for ideas www.randomactsofkindness.org, www.govolunteer.com.au, and www.volunteer.vic.gov.au.
Have a Crisis Plan
Have a plan that includes important phone numbers and online resources (your supports, crisis services) and a step-by-step process to follow if your mood goes beyond the ‘blues’ to a more severe emotional downturn. If you find it difficult to get out of bed, you have lost the will to take care of even your basic needs, you are finding that you are drinking or using substances to cope, or you are thinking about suicide—these are serious signs of depression that require immediate attention. Always remember that you are not alone and there is always someone out there that can help.
So have Happy Holidays, if you can. But if you can’t, that’s okay too.