Every year, about a month or so before Thanksgiving, I start to observe the onset of gloom amongst people everywhere. An unspoken angst grips the air.
There is a persistent myth that the holidays are the happiest time of the year but that’s simply not the case.
Since the social expectation is for people to be happy, or even joyful, we can be easily disappointed or frustrated with ourselves when we feel differently. We feel there is something wrong with our negative feelings which deepens the stress that comes with the holidays.
For people with recent losses, divorces, or separations or for those with multiple families, the anxiety can be even more extreme.
SO what can you do to feel okay during the holidays?
People without a solid family structure and families all over the world need to be proactive during this time.
Here are some practical tips to maintain an even keel and even find some peace of heart and mind.
- Respect and acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel increased sadness or grief during the holiday season. Tell someone how you feel. Say it out loud. Tell your wife, your husband, your best friend. If you live alone tell your neighbor or your dog. Tell your neighbor’s dog. Tell yourself in the mirror that it’s OK to have the holiday blues.
- Move forward when unhappy. You can’t force yourself to be happy when you’re not but that does not mean mope around in your pajamas all day. After you acknowledge your reality get up and greet the world.
- Reach out. Take charge of your power to connect to others. Don’t be an isolated victim. You have the capability to infuse energy into others’ lives. Be willing to do it.
- Be open to discovering new traditions and rituals. As families grow and change, the tendency to come apart for periods of time is natural. It is not always realistic or possible for everyone to be together under one roof for a holiday celebration. Recognize that while the situation is not ideal it’s a reality, NOT a tragedy. Send pictures, videos or cards. Make phone calls or connect on social media. Make plans to see special people after the holidays at a more practical time.
- Have a priority list and accept that you are on top of it. Don’t whine and complain about the next thing you have to do. Instead, accept that you have made a choice to do it either because you actually want to do it for some reason or because you just don’t want to deal with the consequences of not doing it.
- Set aside differences. Don’t expect friends, family or coworkers to live up to any specific expectations when they too may be experiencing sadness and disappointment. Fighting and bickering will most definitely make things worse during this already stressful time. Put your grievences on the back burner and give yourself some time and space to be free of resentment.
- Stick to a budget. Don’t become a shopoholic just to forget about your feelings. Overspending on a mountain of unnecessary gifts will not cure the blues.
- Don’t forget yourself! It’s even more important to take care of number one during the busiest times of the year. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Take a walk, a bike ride, a hike. Get a massage. Eat a healthy snack or have a cup of tea before you go to the next event to avoid binging on cakes and alcohol.
- Seek out a professional if you feel persistently sad or anxious. If you are in an extreme or uncomfortable state, seek help as soon as possible.
Remember that it’s a myth that families need to be together at specific holidays. If you want to be festive make your own home or space a place for people to come. Initiate the holiday yourself. Bring friends together. Even when the family is intact and together it doesn’t mean they are having fun. Let’s get out from under this dark cloud of illusion and make the holiday something fun and unique for ourselves.