How To Prevent The Blues And Enjoy The Holidays
By Dr Barbara Lowe
Warm and enticing holiday commercials are starting to air on television, and many of us experience a nostalgic feeling as we move into shorter days and the calendar fills with parties and festivities. On television, the holidays are portrayed as times of belonging, connection, and abundance. Most of us will gather with our families and celebrate from our various traditions and hope for warm times of connection.
Unfortunately, sometimes, these hopes are not fulfilled. Some of us will try hard to create an idyllic holiday experience, only to find that others do not always cooperate. And…. our high expectations paired with others’ unfavorable choices can make for discouraging times. For some of us, the recent loss of a loved one or a recent break up will feel like a punch in the stomach that causes us to endure the holidays rather than enjoy them. For others, returning home for the holidays is like going to ground zero from which our original soul damage occurred, our family of origin. There are many reasons for the holiday blues, most of which are related to a sense of loss or unfulfilled longing juxtaposed to the idyllic sense of belonging to which every holiday song, play, show, and story refer.
How do we avoid holiday blues? Prevention is key! Below are 8 tools for preventing the holiday blues. Use these tools and you will find joy in your holiday journey!
1. Realize Where You Do and Do Not Have Control. Remember that you do not have control over others and over most situations. This can be disheartening, when we so want others or situations to be what we need. But…the good news is that we have control over ourselves…our thoughts, our actions, our values, our choices. For example, Jason may not be able to control that Uncle Harry drinks and blows up at most holiday dinners, and he cannot change that his mother will continue to invite Uncle Harry, but Jason can leave early to spend time with friends or catch a movie.
2. Own Your Holiday Experience! There will be times in our holiday schedules where we will engage in activities that are personally less than savory for the sake of the greater good (i.e., the expectations of family, friends, and colleagues). But, it is also important to OWN our holidays. What would you like to do? With whom would you like to spend time? Your time is yours…make time in your schedule to engage in life-giving activities with your favorite people. Too many people out of town? Find ways to meet new people through meet-ups, religious events, or community events!
3. Change Your Expectations. We often move into the holidays with high hopes that the holidays will deliver their magic, and we will have a blissful, life-changing experience (i.e., every made for TV holiday movie). What if instead, we lower our expectations to a more realistic level, and then when we experience more than we had hoped, it is all icing? For example, if Todd’s father usually buys him hunting gear as a gift and ignores that Todd does not like to hunt, Todd might feel like he is not respected for who he is by his father. What if Todd chooses to expect that his dad will get him hunting gear and looks for other ways his father shows that he respects Todd?
4. Deck Your Schedule with Life-Giving Activities! Take out your phone and make a list of activities in which you would like to engage between November 15 and January 1. Also, noodle around google to look for fun events that are going on in the area. Then, add at least 6 activities to your schedule, and commit to making at least 3 of them work! Go even further and make a HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST to complete (ideas here abound on social media)!
5. Use Social Media Wisely. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are bound to look like everyone is having an idyllic holiday. Take it from a psychologist whose phone rings off the hook starting January 2…there is a lot not being said on social media. Most of us present our best foot forward on social media. Remember that everyone has challenges, heartaches, and unmet longings. Be careful about comparing your insides to others’ highly edited social media feeds.
6. Be Kind to Yourself! Remember that no matter where you are, there you will be…so….why not be your own best friend? Say kind things to yourself, treat yourself to what you would give a best friend. Find ways to be kind to you. For example, what if Brady, who normally dreads the business and stress of the holidays, took herself out to the mall during off-grid hours, bought herself her favorite Starbuck’s coffee concoction before window shopping and then going to a massage? And wouldn’t it be powerful if she did not allow herself to entertain any guilt, fear, or thoughts that she is not good enough, but instead chose to think self-encouraging thoughts all day?
7. Remember Balance! The holidays are a busy time, with parties, events, and preparations putting tremendous demands on our time. Despite all these demands, we cannot forget to have some balance in our schedules. We still need to get adequate sleep, eat relatively healthy, move our bodies, develop our spirits, and have some social and alone time. It is ok, and even preferable for you to say no to some events or take some short cuts. For example, what if Sara saved time and stress by buying cookies for the school cookie exchange instead of making them? In addition, be sure to watch out for excessive drinking, and, if applicable, get the support you need to avoid indulging in any addictive behaviors. Be proactive!
8. Live from Love. We all need love and when we are living from our best self, we are loving ourselves and others. When we live from love, choosing to honor and value people, we are happier and our relationships improve. Loving does not mean being a doormat, but it does mean trying to see, hear, and value people. We can validate others’ emotions, even if we do not agree with their opinions and actions. And, if we are holding a grudge against ourselves or someone else, we need to choose to forgive. It will be healing for us and your relationships. When we love, we are living from our best selves and life flows out from us while joy dwells in us.