The holiday season is upon us once again. While others are hanging lights, baking Christmas cookies, and getting excited about the season, you may not be feeling as sparkly about the holidays. All of the cheer and merriment of the holidays can shine a bright light on whatever issue you might be facing—a loss of a loved one, the loss of a pet, a year that didn’t go as planned, a relationship ending, or a personal challenge—and you’d rather stay under the covers and wake up when it’s January.
It’s tough to be down in the dumps or going through a tough time when there are reminders of Christmas everywhere. Going into hibernation til January isn’t practical (or healthy), so I put together some practices for you to utilize through December. Do what serves you and brings comfort and joy.
1) Connect with others
When you are faced with an obstacle, it’s your support system that matters most. Lean on family and friends. Reach out. Talk to them. Our relationships make us feel like we are all in this together. Your relationships contribute greatly to your overall well-being. Let others lift you up. Even better? Grab a friend and take a walk or go to a group fitness class. Moving your body and connecting with friends are two ways to greatly enhance your overall well-being. I love my run club and yoga classes for this!
2) Scan for the things you like
Maybe you aren’t going through a loss or a specific problem right now, you just don’t like the holidays because you don’t like where your life is at right now. For me I don't love the cold and dark evenings. Remember, your life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to enjoy it. Is there anything you like about this time of year? You don’t have to put your happiness on hold just because you have some personal goals still in progress.
3) Pay Tribute
If you are experiencing a loss that has you feeling sad, and idea is to use your emotions to pay tribute. For example, if you lost a family member this year, you can do this by working on a photo album, writing a personal tribute you can share with other family members, or sharing stories and memories of the person you lost. If your loss is a relationship ending (divorce or a break-up) try to switch the focus and pay tribute to your own life. What are some things you could do for just you that would restore your spirit? If it’s a beloved pet that you lost, you can pay tribute and donate some of your time to the local animal shelter or create a positive memory by framing a picture of your cherished pet. Take some small steps that create a feeling of comfort in you.
Whether times are great or times are tough, gratitude is an instant mood lifter. Notice what’s going right. Even if you are going through a difficult personal challenge, there is always something to be grateful for in your life. Think of three things when you wake up in the morning or make a list of all the things you are grateful for when your day ends. You will be reminding yourself to pay attention to and spend some time with the positive. I just started a gratitude jar in which I write what I am grateful for that day and put in a jar. I will read a year from now or when I need a reminder.
5) Do something kind for someone else
The best way to get out of your own head—especially when it’s a painful or sorrowful place to be—is to redirect your focus to someone else. Giving back to someone else is not only kind, it’s a great way to feel better about yourself.
6) Create your own traditions
If people or circumstances in your life have changed to where you can’t have the same holiday that you like to have, simply start new traditions. It might be hard to do things differently if you liked how things used to be, but you have the power to create new traditions for your family to cherish. Start with these questions: 1. What do you want your holiday to be like this year? 2. How can you make that happen?
7) Find some laughter and humor
I love the feeling of laughing so hard you get tears in my eyes? Sit down with your super hilarious friend, or watch a funny movie. Whatever makes you laugh, immerse yourself in it for a little levity and an escape from what’s weighing you down. Laughter really is the best medicine.
December might be painful for you because of what you are going through, but you can make it better with lots of self-compassion and kindness. I hope you can discover some magical moments of joy this holiday season.
There is a wonderful line from Rumi, the Sufi poet, which says, “Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop…”
Like many people, Autumn is one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love the beautiful colors of the leaves! I always feel a little sad when it is time for the leaves to fall off, I want them to just stay all winter. But the leaves know better and just do their thing naturally. They make letting go look so easy.
I was thinking of the Rumi quote not only because of the seasons changing, but it reminds of times when I didn't want to let go of things in the past. I know I had to let go, but it didn't make it less painful and easier.
Most of us have experienced letting go of old relationships, friendships, careers that no longer serves us, people that have hurt us and beloved pets. Many of us experienced letting go of marriages, and for some, children(whether through death or just leaving for school or the mid-week trade off from divorce).
Sometimes we also are letting go of old ways of being in the world. Most certainly, we have let go of different versions of ourselves. I know I have.
Letting go all the way takes it's own time, I have learned. Sometimes it takes a long time.
Today I simply want to acknowledge all that we have let go of- whether we wished to or not. In some situations, the letting go has been long and arduous, almost like cutting off a limb, bit by painful bit. In other situations, it is exactly like the leaf falling from the tree- natural and easy. But we have done it; kudos to your strength, brave one.
Letting go creates space for growth and for what's to come next. I love the quote from Joseph Campbell: We have to be willing to let the life we had planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us, which can be a gift.
To Let Go Takes Love
To ‘let go’ does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To ‘let go’ is not to cut myself off,
it is the realization I can’t control another.
To ‘let go’ is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To ‘let go’ is not to admit powerlessness,
it means the outcome is not in my hands.
To ‘let go’ is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.
To ‘let go’ is not to care for,
but to care about.
To ‘let go’ is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To ‘let go’ is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To ‘let go’ is not to be in the middle, arranging outcomes,
but to allow others to effect their own destinies.
To ‘let go’ is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.
To ‘let go’ is not to deny,
but to accept.
To ‘let go’ is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To ‘let go’ is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.
To ‘let go’ is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To ‘let go’ is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
Licensed counselor, outdoor enthusiast, yoga lover and passionate about wellness.