The carolling in the street. The ugly Christmas sweater party. Secret Santa at the office. Trimming the tree. The expectation that the holiday season is supposed to be the most delightful time of the year can leave many people feeling downright depressed, withdrawn and lonely.
I know because I have been there before. Several times.
December used to be one of my favourite months of the year. I used to love it when my parent’s radio station switched over to playing 24/7 Christmas songs. I couldn’t wait to put up the decorations in our family home. I craved curling up on the couch with hot chocolate watching “White Christmas” and “Home Alone” reruns year after year.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to experience a pretty magical holiday. But my adult years haven’t always turned out that way.
Take last year for example. Last December was the worst on record for me. I had overworked myself and was extremely run down. The guy I was dating went total MIA just before the holidays. I was heartbroken. My entire family came down with the flu and was bed-ridden. And my New Year’s Eve was the icing on the proverbial cake! I WAS all dressed up with somewhere to go, when I had to turn my car around and head home because I too had picked up the flu. Needless to say I was in bed by 11 with my Kleenex box sneezing in 2014.
Happy New Year to me. NOT.
I have had other miserable holidays, too, but this isn’t about me. Or rehashing those times in my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself during these darker periods. And I want to share what I feel are helpful tips to help you handle the holiday blues.
TIP #1: BECOME YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
The holiday season has a way of amplifying and creating feelings of isolation, aloneness and loneliness during the holidays. There are infinite reasons why you might feel disconnected from the people around you. Regardless of the reason, I have always found that in my deepest state of despair it was wise to get closer to myself.
In the past, it often wasn’t my own company that frightened me, but the beliefs I had about being by myself. Especially at this time of year. I would sometimes fight tooth and nail to NOT feel the way I was feeling which ended up creating more resistance to what was coming up.
When I felt isolated, alone and lonely all kinds of limiting beliefs and negative emotions triggered. And those limiting beliefs and negative emotions had a way of making me sink deeper and deeper into a state of blanketed darkness. I would ruminate over how unfair it was to experience the holidays this way. Catastrophizing my situation. Beating myself up over how I felt. Telling myself that it shouldn’t be this way.
But it was that way. And the more I resisted what I was experiencing in my body emotionally and mentally, the worse it felt.
At some point I had to learn to develop deeper compassion toward myself. I had to implement positive self-talk to reinforce that it was okay to feel how I felt. I understood that it was temporary. I had something to learn in the experience I was having. And it was my sole responsibility to figure out what that was.
One of the biggest realizations I had was that I was withholding love from myself and expecting the outside world to give it to me. That left me feeling very disappointed. Imagine for a moment your best friend coming to you and expressing how sad they felt. Alone. Depressed. You probably wouldn’t aggravate the situation by putting them down. Or making them feel worse about their experience. So why would you do that to yourself?
YOU MATTER. Give yourself the gift of support. Compassion. Nourishment. Tenderness. Love. All of those things that you want to receive from the other people in your life.
Treat yourself to a homemade holiday meal. Pamper your body at the spa. Put up your feet. Purchase a few gifts for yourself with the money you would have spent on others. Start setting your personal intentions and goals for the New Year ahead.
There will be MANY more holidays down the road. No matter what happens during those periods, becoming your own best friend and having your own back can truly make or break the holiday season and any other time of the year for that matter.
TIP #2 FIND SATISFACTION IN SOLITUDE
Tip #1 leads me to my next point. Finding satisfaction in a state of solitude. By no means am I saying that solitude replaces your connection to other human beings. What I am saying, is that if you find yourself during this season by yourself it can be a very healthy and helpful component for your entire wellbeing and personal growth.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the people around me (myself included) complain about how busy they are. How much they have going on. How fast-paced their lives are. And how difficult it can be to have downtime to just be.
If you have time off during the holidays with nowhere to be and nowhere to go, take advantage of that occasion.
Your perception of solitude will dictate the kind of experiences you create for yourself. It can be lonely. Isolating. Depressing. Dismal. Or it can be the complete opposite. It just depends on your outlook.
When I have had times of solitude I have received solutions, answers, messages and guidance from my higher being. When I have slowed down I have had the chance to allow my body to fully rest and recoup. And the cool thing is, giving myself time in solitude doesn’t just improve my life, it has also improved my relationships with others. When I have given myself permission to find pleasure in my solitude my connection with other people drastically improves. I don’t expect the people around me to give to me what I need to give myself. I show up completely present. Engaged. Refreshed. Grounded. And I am more open and available to connect and listen deeply. There is more space within my entire being to give to others. And that feels good.
When I haven’t had enough time alone I show up in the complete opposite way. Drained. Fatigued. Unavailable. Ungrounded. Solitude is a gift. It can do A LOT for your mind, body and soul. Something that I know Santa couldn’t bring you. Or obligatory holiday functions. It just depends if you are open enough to see it from that perspective.
TIP #3: CONNECT WITH YOUR SOUL FAMILY
If you don’t have family that you feel close to or a partner to kiss under the mistletoe, the holidays can highlight that those people are missing from your life. Not everyone is blessed with a strong bond to blood relatives.
From personal experience, I know that each and everyone of us have a connection to what I call a Soul family. Soul family are the people in your life that are not blood related but on a deeper level feel as though they are or should have been. They GET YOU. They feel familiar. Even like home. You can lean on them. They are your friends. Colleagues. Confidantes. Allies. The brother or sister you never had.
I am not sure what I would have done if I didn’t have my soul family over the years. Last year would have been by far worse if I didn’t have the love and care of my friends who cushioned me with support to get me through that time.
If solitude isn’t an option this holiday, perhaps being around your soul family is. This is the family you get to choose and enjoy being around. The people in your life that nourish, understand and accept you fully is ultimately what fulfills us the most. And when you feel down and out, these are the people you want to reach out to and ask for support. All year round.
TIP #4: DON’T MAKE IT ABOUT YOU
The more you make the holidays about YOU and what you don’t have. Or the challenges you are facing. Or how horrible the whole year has been, the more you will stay stuck in a perpetual state of dreariness. Self-loathing is never worth celebrating. Neither is complaining.
Get out of your own head and get out into your community. Volunteer your time at a local hospital. Or at a soup kitchen. Purchase a coffee for the customer behind you at the cafe. Bring a holiday poinsettia to your neighbour.
There are ALWAYS people who are in far worse situations than you. Selfless service has a way of up lifting your spirit and warming your heart. And you never know whom you might meet or connect with while performing these acts of kindness.
At the of the day, what matters most is not the traditions you keep at this time of the year, but the self-care rituals you create. These holiday rituals will not only help you beat the holiday blues in December, but through out the year as well.
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