Are you getting ready for the holidays? This can be a fabulous time of year. The general mood is one of goodwill and celebration, where family and friends come together with loving feelings. It is also a spiritual time. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Hajj (the great pilgrimage to Mecca), and the winter solstice are all celebrated at this time of year. The fact that it is a worldwide holiday time adds to the sense of connection and sentiment.
Yet it can all turn on a dime. The dark side of the holidays is lurking in the shadows. This year has the added heaviness of two years into a pandemic with no real end in sight. Everyone has experienced loss of one kind or another. For some, it’s been devastating.
For years I felt both joy and pain around the holidays. Growing up, Christmas was the one time of the year when everyone in my family got along. As an adult, I became nostalgic and sad because it brought up childhood pain and loneliness.
The holidays can spotlight family strife, unwanted obligations, financial limitations, relationship problems, or a lack of close friends can bring up a lot of feelings—anxiety, resentment, sadness, and the most difficult of all, loneliness. It can mean spending time with family members who would never be a friend if they weren’t related. Opposing religious and political views are stronger than ever.
When I was young and unhappy, I used to compare my life to the commercialized Christmas images of perfect families, eating perfect meals, giving perfect presents and would feel mighty bad about myself. Yet, it was still my favorite time of year.
Then it is all topped off by New Year, where we are supposed to celebrate all we have accomplished, or simply let go of a difficult year and start fresh by proclaiming a few resolutions. Easier said than done.
WHAT TO DO:
1) Allow time for your feelings. Take time to just sit with whatever is going on in you. Five minutes may be all it takes. We often stop ourselves from acknowledging our feelings because we think it’s going to get in the way of what we are doing. One of the greatest ways you can honor yourself is to be emotionally honest with yourself. Emotions are not meant to interfere with your life, but to inform it.
2) Define what you are feeling, specifically. Try to be as specific as you can about what you feel and accept that you can have mixed feelings at the same time. You may be happy in your job, and angry at your boss. This year especially, there are many who will be missing a loved one who passed. You can be sad, and at the same time be joyful or grateful for things in your life. The more specifically you experience your feelings, the more clarity and energy you will have.
3) Know that having feelings doesn’t mean you have to express them. You may be with people where you do not feel safe feeling vulnerable. This doesn’t mean you have to stuff those feelings. Rather, acknowledge them to yourself with compassion. Practice healthy detachment. If you have a relative you can’t stand, try looking at that person as an observer, as if you are studying them for a report you’re going to do. Be curious as to why they behave the way they do. This will help to become more detached from their behavior without shutting down.
4) Assess what idealized concepts you may be comparing yourself to. Advertising bombards us with idealized everything. All you need is a Mastercard . . . and a willingness to go deeply into debt. So often we suffer over not being someone we think we should be, while what’s wonderful about yourself goes unacknowledged.
5) It’s the season of giving. What can you give yourself? Looking for others to make us happy limits you. If you are lonely and feeling sorry for yourself, set a timer for fifteen minutes and feel as sorry for yourself as you can. I dare you to last for 15 minutes. Then get up and go do something you enjoy. Go out into the world. Go for a walk, or to a movie; sit in a coffee shop and say hello to a stranger. Buy yourself a little something, or volunteer. It doesn’t have to be monumental, but make an effort to connect, whether it is to another person, an animal, or simply to yourself.
6) Be willing to change. Be open to a new way of “doing” the holidays. The first Christmas after my parents died, I notified my siblings that I was not feeling the spirit and would not be sending gifts and there was no obligation to get me anything. It was freeing and I felt like I was in integrity. Get creative. Writing a letter to someone that tells them exactly how you feel or what you admire about them would be a tremendous gift.
Whatever it is you are feeling, be kind to yourself, reach out for support if you need it, then focus on what you are grateful for.
Wishing you a happy, peaceful, enriching, kind, meaningful, heartfelt, beautiful Holiday Time. Contact Joie for private consultation
Photo by Mara Ket