The following isn’t a grinchy outlook on holidays. I just wanted to put that out there so my message isn’t lost
Yesterday I read a post about how to avoid the holiday season blues. While I liked the article and it had some good points/advice I felt the advice was a bit… plucky. Maybe the advice was quality for a case of the “blues” but not so much for those of us who have dealt/deal with depression.
This got me thinking about my own experiences of struggling during the holidays. It usually starts out with Halloween and the fact that my job has turned it from a holiday I used to enjoy to one I now fear. Halloween is just a mixer for alcohol at this point and it results in some debauchery and late night emergency calls for yours truly.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as I’ve already professed. Since I don’t have family close by, I always take the shift for work since others do. It’s not so bad but it does mean most years I spend the holiday on my own. I cook a big meal because that is “Thanksgiving” for me but then I eat alone.
Then Christmas. The Christmas season is lovely albeit the horrific Kay jewelery commercials that play from now until Valentine’s day. However, it will be two years on Dec. 16th that my mom passed away so the holiday has changed for me a bit.
Essentially, this is NOT a recipe for a lighthearted and fun holiday atmosphere. The last two years were pretty rough due to my mother’s passing and I really want to avoid my all-out feelings of despair this year since it takes a lot to recover from. So, here are my suggestions/plans of actions for this year. Maybe it will help others who don’t feel so jolly when it seems like the rest of the world is.
1. Lower the expectations: this was suggested in the other article but taking it one step further is important in my case. Of course lowering the expectation for “the most fantastic holiday season EVER!” is there. But even more important lower the expectations of yourself to feel you have to go all in simply because it seems everyone else is. Don’t feel bad if the stockings aren’t hung on the chimney with care or you don’t have elf ears on to go caroling around the neighborhood. Instead, do something you really enjoy. I want to bake some cookies for a cookie exchange and make some Christmas gifts. I don’t want to decorate my apt or get a tree. I need to avoid any guilt associated with this.
2. Do you what you need and want to do: okay, so this sounds pretty selfish but let me put it in context. Does going to holiday parties make you feel more alone if you are single? Does going shopping on Thanksgiving eve/Black Friday make you feel guilty? What about buying your own presents rather than spending money on others? Well, skip the party, go shopping and buy yourself something – IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT. There are some obligations that are meant to be kept and others can be politely declined.
3. Be wary of being a hermit: I’m very good at being a hermit. Being able to spend time alone is a healthy quality however, I take it to the next level at times. So, this year, I am working on forcing myself out and about during the craziness of the season. But I am being selective about how I’m doing it. I’m choosing to spend time with people who make me laugh. I’m also fighting (seriously, with every fiber of my being) NOT to cancel plans once it’s time to leave. I do this. A lot. Why? Because I want to stay home in my sweatpants and avoid all of the anxiety (real and imagined) that’s wrapped up in being out and about. Most times I have a great time!
4. Exercise: this was also one listed in the other article and I know it’s true. Even when I don’t feel like heading outside I need to force myself to go. Fresh air is good for you, or so they tell me, and I need to keep sickness, headaches and low self-esteem away. Exercise can help with all of these.
5. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ goods: or the fact they have a spouse, or a baby, or a dishwasher or a washer/dryer. Whatever it is that friends and family members have that seems like it would make life easier or better, try not to let it over shadow what you do have. I’m terrible about this. All of those things I mentioned are things I want and feel could make the holiday season more fun (and functional!) but it’s not in the cards for me YET. I need to remember the YET part rather than getting trapped in the “it won’t be for me EVER” downward spiral. So far this year, I’ve accomplished this by buying myself lots of stuff since I don’t have to spend it on anyone else. Sort of a silver lining but it could also lead to buyer’s remorse later so I need more tools in my toolbox to help with this. Definitely in progress.
6. Feeling unsettled or out of sorts: currently I feel the need to rid myself of ALL THE THINGS (yes, I know this goes against my buying of all the things but I can’t always help what goes on in my brain). I want to purge my spare bedroom of the clutter that I no longer use. It comes from my feelings of restlessness during the holidays and I’m going to take advantage of it. The stuff I’m not using is bogging me down. The stuff I did purchase is actually useful – it’s a nice change. The other part is, I know I will feel out of sorts and I need to accept it. But I don’t need to over analyze it. Easier said then done but I’m working on it.
7. Avoid some of the holiday movies… like the plague: Hallmark channel and ABC Family air these incredibly dripping with love and holiday cheer movies constantly during this time of year. DON’T WATCH THEM! They are completely unrealistic and there is no way in hell I’m going to fall on my ass ice skating and some ridiculously hot guy is going to help me up and three days later propose to me… While it’s snowing fat fluffy snowflakes with children singing the song from the Grinch. Even though I know this in my mind, my heart starts to feel badly because maybe if I were better _________ then it would happen! Lame. Not to mention, when the movies focus on a generic meaning of the “true spirit of Christmas” and this doesn’t hold true for you, it can be depressing. And lonely.
The thing is, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to completely avoid feelings of stress, loneliness, sadness or whatever during the holiday season. And I think this may apply to everyone at some point during this stretch. What am I going to do about it? I’ve mostly listed the issues above and now I need to think of an action plan to help keep negative nellies at bay.
I’ll post the list this week as it’s still in progress and I would love to hear some input from all of you! How do you uplift your spirits during the holidays if feeling down or anxious?