Although this is known to be a joyous season it doesn’t mean that it is. The Holidays can cause a sore spot to fester even more. Perhaps you are experiencing grief or loss, or enduring a time of illness/chronic pain. You might be walking through a time of broken dreams or fractured relationships. These points of pain tend to inflame during the Holidays, whether your situation is fresh and raw or old and aching. Here are some tips for helping to navigate the Holidays when they’re not so happy.
- Feel However You’re Feeling. Don’t try to be ‘jolly’ when you’re not. There is no right or wrong way to feel. If you’re sad, acknowledge it. If you’re hurt and angry, validate those feelings. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to notice our feelings and give them an audience. Now that doesn’t mean you need to stay miserable throughout the Holidays or wreck your children’s Christmas because you feel hurt and don’t want to get out of bed. Feelings aren’t mean to drive. They just help us to know what is going on ‘under the hood’ emotionally.
- Have a Pity Party but No Overnight Camping. It’s okay to be overwhelmed by grief, sickness, broken dreams, etc. but to just sit in the pain of that day after day is not helpful for anyone. It doesn’t help us work through our grief and loss. Set aside a time to feel your feelings but put a time limit on how long you will dwell on them. Set the timer on your phone and when it goes off, put those hard things away for the day and get on with what you need to do for yourself, family and friends. You can re-visit them tomorrow for the same length of time — then put them away and on with your day.
- Take Care of Yourself. Meet your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. This may involve some small social interaction — possibly even just with one friend or family member. Don’t pressure yourself to go out to parties or larger gatherings. Choose the get-togethers that are helpful for you at this time. Get out of bed, get dressed and practice daily hygiene — things you would do to take proper care of another person. Feed your body appropriately with a variety of foods that give you good nutritional balance. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Do some helpful things for yourself even if you don’t feel like it.
- Journal. Even if you typically don’t journal, it can help process through pain/loss by writing. It is a sensory and analytical/thought process. Journalling can be a good way to release painful emotions without sharing them with someone else.
- Get Connected. Even if you don’t want to go anywhere, isolation can breed depression and hopelessness. We need connection! Maybe it feels too painful to get together with your family — reach out in a different way — volunteer to help out someone less fortunate. Food Banks, Organizations that Feed the Working Poor/Homeless, etc. are also in need of volunteers to help during this season. Making even the slightest difference in someone else’s life is a helpful and encouraging thing.
- Be Realistic with Yourself. Setting unrealistic expectations is a common way to increase shame, guilt and other unpleasant emotions. Maybe things have to be very different this year, that’s okay! Don’t make yourself do a bunch of things just to please other people or because you’re afraid of disappointing them. Sometimes the ‘bar’ has to be set at ‘got out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, fed myself, cried and went back to bed.’ Wherever it gets set, make sure it’s realistic and ultimately shows kindness and grace towards yourself.
No matter what you are facing this Holiday season, hang in there. Be kind to yourself. Take it one day at a time. Allow people in to support you through this time, even if it’s just to sit with you with no words. You can do this — because you are doing it, it’s just really hard.
Access 24/7 is a free service in the Edmonton area. Individuals needing access to services can now simply call (780) 424-2424 or walk-in to Anderson Hall at 10959 102 St NW, every day of the week, 24/7 for Addiction and Mental Health Concerns.
Tags: anxiety, broken dreams, broken relationships, Christmas, chronic pain, coping, depression, grief, loss, Mental health, overeating, Realistic Expectations, relationships, self-care, sickness, struggle, struggling, support