When we think of the holidays, it often conjures up memories of joy and excitement as we anticipate celebrating this time of year with family and friends. But, the holidays can also be a difficult time for many who may be experiencing difficult aspects of the holiday season, such as:
- Spending time with toxic family members
- Celebrating without loved ones due to death or divorce
- Remembering painful holidays of the past
- Feeling overwhelmed with obligations
- Experiencing financial strain
- Feeling guilty for being less than joyful
If any of these sound familiar, here are 7 ways to help you cope during the holiday season.
Acknowledge your feelings
When there are many demands placed on our time, we sometimes don’t pay much attention to what we’re feeling. Take time to pause and reflect on how you are feeling. If you notice that you are feeling sad, acknowledge this and remind yourself that it’s normal to feel sad when dealing with a loss or change. Make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to experience your feelings, especially if you are grieving a loss.
Try to spend time with positive friends and family. It can be tempting to isolate from groups when feeling sad or stressed; however, connecting with a good friend or family member can provide some much needed support during difficult times. Invite a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile out to dinner or coffee, say “yes” to the holiday party that your neighbor is having, or organize a holiday movie night with close friends.
Make new memories and start new traditions
Each year brings change and with change brings an opportunity for new memories. If you’ve lost a love one, develop a new holiday ritual that honors your loved one. Start new traditions with family and friends by doing things like planning a holiday dinner or get together, organizing a cookie decorating party, or driving around looking at holiday lights in your neighborhood.
The holidays are typically a busy time, filled with events, responsibilities, and long to-do lists. So it is no wonder that we often neglect self-care. Even though you may find yourself busy with obligations, make sure you are taking some time to take care of yourself. Make sleep a priority. Find opportunities to do the things that you enjoy, like exercise or pamper yourself with massages, facials or manicures/pedicures. Taking care of yourself also involves occasionally saying the word, “no.” If you are already feeling overwhelmed, say “no” to taking on additional responsibilities or obligations.
Ask yourself, “What do I want?"
When the holidays are spent with family get togethers and social gatherings, we find ourselves committing to events we don't want to attend in order to make others happy. Ask yourself what is that you really want to do? If you dread going to your aunt’s house on Thanksgiving because it’s filled with drama, consider a weekend getaway instead. If you feel obligated to attend a friend’s holiday party because you've already committed to attend, find a compromise by going for a little while and then spend the rest of the evening doing something you enjoy.
When we help others it can provide us with a new perspective and bring some meaning into our lives. The holidays bring many opportunities to volunteer and help others, whether it be donating gifts or food for families, volunteering to wrap presents for charitable organizations, visiting with elderly, or volunteering in a soup kitchen. If you would like to volunteer, but aren’t sure where to go, visit www.volunteermatch.org and type in your zip code to find a list of opportunities in your area.
Make a gratitude list
Thanksgiving is not the only holiday where we can reflect on what we are thankful for. It’s easy to get bogged down by thinking of all of the negative things in our lives. Our brains are built with a greater sensitivity towards negativity, which evolved as a way to help keep us safe. To combat this, try compiling a list of everything that you are grateful for: good health, family and friends, a roof over your head, etc.
Keep in mind that while we can’t control losses, stressors, or memories that may make the holiday season difficult, we can control how we respond to these feelings. If ever there were a time to take a breath and think about how you respond to stressors, it’s during the holidays.
Wishing you all the best this holiday season!