Tips for Surviving the Holidays
from Dr. Donna Friess
While the malls shimmer with their glittering holiday cheer, it might be important to remember that for many the season can be loaded with emotional landmines. Even the most positive may succumb to feelings of anxiety or depression. The enormity of gifts to gather, a house to decorate, or the food to prepare could cause the most hearty to feel overwhelmed! Memories of past years, perhaps with one’s original family, or the loss of a loved one, could also trigger the grief response. The holidays truly can be a tough time, but there are positive ways to work through your feelings.
Start with a simple list
Anxiety can be controlled by making “to do” lists and scaling back. The lists get it out of our heads and the scaling back makes it easier. Simply admitting how you feel can be a relief.
Shed the should
Many of us tend to “should” on ourselves by demanding that we must do what we have always done to make the holidays “perfect” for our loved ones. Often they don’t even notice if a certain dish is homemade or store bought, or whether something is beautifully wrapped or is in a simple decorative bag! If you suffer the “Be Perfect” admonition why not dump it right now? We don’t need to be perfect! Consider this instead: where can you slim down the details in your life to make your experience less nerve-wracking? What can you change?
Staying positive and celebrating with gratitude
If you or your friend have recently lost a loved one, this first holiday season can be particularly difficult. Here are some survival ideas:
1. Be proactive. Plan some activity or ritual that will help you get through the day. Perhaps it is a trip, hosting a gathering, taking a walk in the afternoon, doing something to break up the traditions from the past.
2. Take time to think about your loved one and talk about him or her with a trusted confidant.
3. Create a new tradition. Perhaps there is a game to play, or an art project the family or friends could enjoy such as decorating cupcakes, stockings, creating a gingerbread house, or making ornaments.
4. When invited somewhere consider whether you want to go or are you going to be polite. Answer conditionally, “May I tentatively say yes, and if I feel up to it that day I will come?”
5. Let one trusted person know how you are really doing behind the social mask of cheerfulness.
6. Carry out one of the traditions or rituals of your loved one to honor him or her.
7. Most important of all, know that it is okay to cry.
8. Take good care of yourself by eating properly and sleeping properly and avoiding excessive use of alcohol.
9. Live in gratitude. The prescription for negative thinking is to be grateful for all your blessings.
10. Make a goals book and begin to look forward. What more do you want TO DO, TO HAVE AND TO BE in life?
Mark Twain said that “Courage is to face our fears and go forward”. You can do that even though the holidays may bring more than social gatherings and beautiful music!
–Used with permission.