The warm smell of pumpkin spice and winter pine, bright lights and cheerful decorations, holiday music, holiday movies, holiday parties…it seems the whole world has entered into a perpetual state of happiness and you were not invited. If you are feeling sad or lonely this holiday season, you are not alone. The months of November and December can trigger stress, disappointment, and painful memories for many.
The holiday food, decorations, and presents don’t just happen; they require time and money – two resources that many of us struggle to find. Also, families come together more often during the holidays and this means complex family dynamics, difficult family members, and sometimes a loss of personal routine and space - all of which are not easy and can trigger difficult emotions. The holidays are also a common time of grief for those who are mourning lost family members/loved ones and who find themselves reflecting on memories of times past.
If you pair the above with the constant stream of commercials and social media posts reinforcing the image that everyone else is existing in a constant state of happiness and holiday perfection, it’s hard not to feel sad and lonely. Even if you are a lover of all things holiday and find yourself only uplifted this time of year, there is still the post-holiday crash when all the buying, baking, decorating, giving, receiving, and celebrating comes to an abrupt end – the resulting feelings can be difficult.
So, what can you do?
1) Check your expectations for the holiday.
Accept that it’s impossible to do it all and know ahead of time that some things will not go as planned. A normal holiday season, like any season, will be filled with various wins and losses and ups and downs; it’s also wise to expect the post-holiday crash.
2) Align your holiday activities with your interests and values.
Since you can’t do it all (see tip #1), find ways that you can celebrate the holidays that highlight your personal interests and values. Just because everyone else is baking holiday cookies with their children, doesn’t mean you have to. Follow what brings you joy, rather than what those around you are doing.
3) Serve others.
Research suggests that doing things for others is one of the best ways to boost levels of happiness and to feel more connected. Consider taking advantage of holiday-focused service opportunities.
4) Converse wisely.
At family gatherings avoid controversial topics such as religion, politics, and past hurts. Anticipate triggering comments from others and plan how you might respond that will defuse rather than ignite the situation.
5) Avoid social media.
This is especially important if you find yourself feeling sad and lonely. Take a social media detox, even if just for a day or two, and see how this impacts your mood.
6) Be open and accepting of how you are feeling.
Along with the holiday cheer, work to accept uncomfortable feelings such as shame, guilt, sadness, and loneliness. These are all normal human emotions, especially during the holidays. Try to open to these feelings rather than avoid them and allow them to pass in their own time – they always do.
If you need extra support during these months – KKJ is here for you. Reach out to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors: https://kkjpsych.com/contact/