Are you “excited” about Christmas this year? Are you looking forward to New Year’s Eve? If not, you’re not alone.
But for many people, Christmas isn’t worth celebrating without their loved ones, with a depressed or anxious mood, with feelings of uncertainty, with a history of trauma or neglect, or with a current unpredictable situation. We must also keep in mind that some people will be homeless this Christmas or without basic essentials.
This article will highlight a few ways to benefit from the holiday season, while also being proactive with coping skills for getting through a difficult holiday season.
It’s amazing for me to hear how so many people this year feel taken off guard, forced into, or made to celebrate. Christmas is certainly the most beautiful time of the year.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year because of how my family and I celebrate it. We focus on our religious and cultural beliefs including gratitude for safety, basic essentials, each other, and peace of mind. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the holiday season in this way because of emotional and psychological pain. And for those of us who do celebrate Christmas, our celebration wavers depending on what life brings our way.
How you can benefit from the holiday season
As a result, I have been talking to my clients and my social media supporters and friends about this topic. I offer a variety of ways to cope. You can find my video at anchoredinknowledge.com. For the purposes of this post, however, I list 15 things you can do to survive this holiday season:
- Stay focused: There’s nothing like focus when it comes to the holiday season. The moment you start wandering and looking at everyone else’s life the more you will feel depressed, anxious, or all alone. Focus on your own life and the story of your life. Perhaps you are at a place in your life where holidays don’t work for you anymore. Perhaps you are grieving and struggling with some very real challenges. Whatever the case, you should never compare yourself to others. Even more, staying focused means focusing on what this time of year is really about and leveraging it for what it truly is, not what commercialism tells us it is.
- Only buy for those you truly care about: It is difficult to purchase gifts for people you don’t truly care about. Why do it? Are you afraid of the message that would be sent if you didn’t purchase the person a gift? Are you being influenced by social pressure to purchase a gift for someone? Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t feel pressured into buying someone a gift that you don’t really want to buy. What’s the point in giving someone a gift if they will sense you didn’t put your heart into it? A Christmas card or small “gift” is sufficient.
- Be kind and sincere: Kindness and sincerity is what makes Christmas one of the most beautiful times of the year. In fact, multiple classic Christmas songs highlight the power of giving and kindness during this year. Just think about the some “Grown Up Christmas List.” It’s beautifully written and seeks to encourage sincerity of heart. This is one part of the holiday I encourage you to get lost in.
- Limit exposure to commercialism: Commercialism is the enemy. It is wrapped in fantasy and gains a foothold in the lives of people who buy into it. Avoid it. It isn’t what it looks like. It is often not beneficial to you or anyone around you. For the most part, commercialism helps keep the economy going and seems to serve the purpose of building businesses rather than hearts and minds.
- Get rest and relaxation: This is a stressful time of the year for multiple reasons. You should get as much rest and relaxation as you can. For most people, the day after Christmas and the day after New Year’s Eve are the days they collapse in fatigue. You don’t have to “go all out” and tire yourself. There is life after the holiday season. Keeping focused on what really matters will help you feel better when it’s all over.
- Pursue or continue therapy: Therapy can be useful for individuals who are struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression. Having someone to talk to, bounce ideas with, or examine relational challenges during this time can truly be comforting for some people. I encourage therapy during busy holiday seasons. I recently observed a mother yelling at all of her kids in the middle of a mall because she forgot her gift bags in a store. She was clearly not angry with the children but rather the stress and pressure she was feeling. Is this really how Christmas should feel? A good and caring therapist can help you stay on track.
- Limit Christmas music: I used to live and breathe Christmas music. I would listen to it in November all the way until after New Year’s Day. The older I got the more it changed. I recognized a few years ago that Christmas music, if overdone, can put your mindset into a place of fantasy. You almost begin to live and breathe the “storyline” of the Christmas carols in such as way that insensitivity and obsession can result. Too much Christmas music may also lead to overly high expectations that result in a major let-down after the holiday.
- Build meaning into your holiday: Giving to others, donating money or clothing, helping out at a FoodBank, volunteering your time to help the homeless, offering your comfort to an elderly neighbor or friend, supporting your local school, etc. can all make a major difference in the lives of others during this time of year. It can also build meaning into your own holiday season. It truly is better to give than receive. It is also good for your overall mental health.
- Eat healthy: There is unhealthy food all over during the holiday season. I tend to get swept up into poor eating habits as I tend to cling to foods I like. However, I also exercise and alternate with healthy choices. Sadly, a lot of people avoid this and do what they want during the holiday season. I encourage you to keep your diet structured and healthy so that when it is all over, you can return to your healthy and normal way of eating. You also won’t feel “eaters remorse” which can lead to depression and low self-esteem. Eating healthy also means getting the nutrients necessary to boost your mood.
- Exercise: As stated above, it can be beneficial to boost your mood. Exercise, which gets all the correct hormones in your body working, can reduce stress and depression as well as anxiety and lack of motivation. You will also lose weight and may not see the effects of all of your holiday eating as much as you thought.
- Prepare for after the holiday: Keep in mind that the holiday season will go by pretty fast. Don’t put all of your energy, mental energy, and hope in one day (December 25th). Acknowledge and recognize those you love, who God is, where you are planning to go in the next year, your goals, etc. but leave it at that. Putting all of your time and energy into one day will only come back to depress and defeat you.
- Engage in self-care: Self-care is important to help you keep your heart and mind healthy. Stress can take quite a toll on your body this time of year. Self-care ensures that you are strong enough to face any challenge that may come your way. Relax, engage in guided imagery, use prayer or read scripture, take a timeout, go get a massage, etc. are all important to your overall health.
- Rely on your faith: My faith is a very important part of who I am and how I engage in my work. Without my faith, I certainly would be negatively affected by everything going on in the world today, not to mention my own life. If you have a religious background it may be helpful to utilize this to get through the holiday. Share your knowledge of God with someone, bless someone, pray with or for someone, listen to Christmas music with an inspirational tone, attend holiday church services and gatherings, search the Bible for hope, etc.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol: Drugs (illegal and legal) and alcohol can take its toll on your mind and emotions. Some people cannot drink and will often say and do all the wrong things. This ends up ruining everyone’s holiday and creating bad relationships. Other people end up getting into legal challenges around this time of year as well due to drugs and alcohol. Self-medication is almost always a reason for getting caught with drugs and alcohol. There are also those people who drink at holiday parties and end up losing relationships in the process. Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Remember it won’t last forever: Christmas and New Year’s Day are close to each other. It won’t last forever. Getting through Christmas Day and New Year’s Day can seem impossible for those people who struggle around this time. But if you use some of the tips below and look for reasons to be thankful, you will get through it all. The proper perspective is key.
What has been your experience?
What are some ways you have coped with this time of year? Did your way of coping help?
As always, I welcome your thoughts, experiences, and questions.
Take care and happy holiday
References are embedded in the article