The holidays are almost here. Some of you might be happy. Many are not. There is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed – depression, loss and anxiety. Whether it be a recent loss or something over 5 years ago. Loss is loss. You can’t rush grief. It needs to be handled. Did you know that over 45% of people don’t like to celebrate the holidays. Here are 14 positive ways to navigate them.
1) Start your day with a prayer. I know this might sound odd but connecting with God, before you actually start your day, is the best way to start. God knows your heart. Give yourself about 10 minutes (in the morning) to stay centered with God’s daily plan. Are you stuck with a prayer? Here’s one to get you started:
Just For Today Prayer
YOU bring out wonder and miracles and make ALL things possible. I know this in my heart. I know that as I ask and believe, I will receive. LORD, YOU created me for greatness and YOU do things beyond what I can see. Help me change and make better choices. Create good things for me! LORD, keep me, my family and friends, healthy and safe. Just for today, I pray for __________. Let the Holy Spirit speak through me and guide me. Free me from distractions and manage my identity and direction. Let my band of angels carry out YOUR will. Thank YOU for my life and for this moment. Amen
2) Go for a daily “sense” walk. This could be amidst nature or in a shopping mall. Granted, a mall walk might have some “triggers” like Xmas decorations and Xmas music. If those triggers are too much for you, do the “sense” walk outside. Bring some upbeat music to listen to. You might even want to listen to some podcasts. Anything that steers you clear of “triggers,” is the best way to approach it. BTW: A “sense” walk gets you out of negative situations. It clears your head and gives you perspective.
3) Watch for saboteurs. There are so many people that go overboard over the holidays. If they don’t have blow-up Santa’s on the lawn, or an Xmas tree in every room of their home, they think they’re not in the spirit. You will have people who will try to sabotage your progress, especially when they can’t understand the depth of your loss. Telling you to “shake it off” and enjoy the holidays doesn’t help you address it. In fact, comments like that put you on the defensive, and cause you to shut down, because you’re not being validated.
4) Exercise. There is a high correlation between exercise and anxiety/depression. If you exercise CONSISTENTLY, you have a better handle on the anxiety/depression that might OVERWHELM you. Pay attention to the word CONSISTENTLY! That means a couple of times per week; maybe daily. Exercise releases natural endorphins that elevate your energy. Some examples may include going to your local gym, popping in a couple of dvd’s (and burning calories) or checking out exercise clips on You-tube.
5) Cry and express your emotions. Keeping grief inside doesn’t help you to heal your loss. Grief stays in your body and festers like cancer. If your loss is recent, you have to give yourself permission to cry; maybe even SOB. The more you do it, the better you will feel. Don’t “buy into” the message that you HAVE to be happy over the holidays. That is an untruth. Just because Mrs. Jones is ecstatic over her 7 Xmas trees, and her array of perfectly wrapped presents, does NOT mean you have to be like her.
6) Limit your time with the people who want to celebrate. You can’t expect people NOT to celebrate the holidays. Their experiences might be different from yours. They may not have had an anniversary or holiday without a family member. As a result, they can’t relate to what you’re going through. If they invite you to celebrate. limit your time with them. Remember, you’re navigating this holiday your way. You’re being gentle with yourself, and want to nurture your spirit the best way you can. You might talk to them ahead of time and tell them you’re “game” for visiting, but you’re limiting your time. If they agree to a limited visit, GREAT. If they pull a guilt trip on you, thank them for the invitation, but politely pass.
7) Establish limits with family. There are family members that won’t see things your way. They are unable to change, and will try every way they know, to keep you in the drama and sadness that this holiday brings. Recognize that “drama kings and queens” know no other way and will do everything they can think of to “stir the pot of depression.” If you see them in the “drama,” walk away and ask them to respect your private time. If they refuse, it’s time to cut the cord. This sounds AWFUL, but this is about SELF-PRESERVATION and healing. There might be a silver lining to cutting the cord. They might finally see that their “drama” is a deterrent to having a healthier relationship with you!
8) Quality time with supportive friends. Friends who love and support you in your journey, could be an important part of healing you emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. An important aspect in ALL of this is QUALITY! A five minute coffee-klatch of “Girl, how did things go over the holiday?” IS NOT QUALITY. A quality friend doesn’t limit time to someone who is hurting. A quality friend is not distracted with a cell phone ringing, or answering texts, from family members. A quality friend doesn’t look at their watch, all the while thinking “Damn, this is such a Debby-Downer situation. I need to bolt.” If you sense a “friend” doing any of that, they’re not quality. They’re not FULLY invested in helping you heal. It’s time to let go of that friend and look for others that support you.
9) Volunteer. Remove yourself from situations that trigger grief. Ask around for ideas of places you could go to, that would suit “helping others.” Being of service at your church, school, library, could be a good starting point. You have to start somewhere! You’ll never know how your services could help others.
10) Refrain from the nostalgic. Family patterns are hard to break. This involves “doing things as they’ve ALWAYS been done.” Don’t buy into the message that since “dad’s gone” that listening to Xmas carols by Bing Crosby is what “he would have wanted.” Dad is gone, people are sad. Listening and doing nostalgic things won’t bring him back or preserve his memory. His memory is in your heart and spirit; never to go away. Instead of the nostalgic, do something fun. Watch fun movies or episodes of “I Love Lucy” and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine over the holidays.
11) Establish new traditions. Time is fluid and things change. A loss in the family is inevitable and that loss might warrant a “healing” type of change. Talk to your family about establishing new traditions. Instead of going to Aunt Sally’s for Christmas Eve, why not go to a Chinese restaurant and have dinner with Aunt Sally? You’re still celebrating, just not in the usual way. You’ll be amazed at how a change of scenery will help heal and get perspective.
12) Take a vacation. If you have the resources, remove yourself from everything and go to a place that isn’t immersed in Santa Clause and Xmas trees. Go on a cruise or visit a place totally removed from the familiar. Many families retreat in this way to cope. Once again, it’s about healing and nurturing your spirit.
13) One day at a time. This sounds like a cliché. In actuality, it’s your best “plan of action.” You can only manage things a little at a time. Loss brings tremendous anxiety and depression. Worrying about New Year’s Eve or Christmas Day dinner will only stress you out and will undermine the nurturing intention to “heal thyself.” Taking things in baby steps WILL get you to the finish line of navigating the holidays, your way. Be gentle with yourself.
14) Journal your successes. Get a journal and write about your successes. Do this every night before you go to sleep. After the holidays are done, go back and review the positive strides you’ve made. You’ll be amazed at the changes you’ve made to healing your spirit, and overcoming your loss.
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