by David Kneen
In a previous post, we looked at the reality of grief during the holidays. The reality is that none of us are whole creatures, but some among us are truly walking wounded. Among other challenges, you may be facing the holidays with grief, depression or anxiety, disability or illness, major life changes, loneliness, unemployment, financial struggles, marital strife, or problems with children. For you, the usual holiday stressors like family visits, elaborate meals, gift exchanges, and even well-worn traditions or home-decorating can become emotional minefields, fraught with potential for overwhelming fear, sadness, or anger. Like the holidays themselves, some sources of stress are unavoidable, but you may have more room than you think to maneuver and face them while avoiding others entirely.
Here are some suggestions and thoughts…no prescriptions.
- Decide to be patient with yourself, realistic about your limitations, and accepting of your emotions however they come. Embrace sadness and joy, beauty and pain. There will be ample helpings of each.
- You usually have choices. Accept, reject, adapt. Few things (if anything) “must” be done. What was done last year can be changed this year, and changed again next year depending on how it goes. Feel free to be flexible and change your mind on the fly as needed.
- Decide what is most important and then plan around that. Think through what you can ahead of time like gift lists, menus, grocery lists, which events to attend or avoid, and which people to seek out or avoid.
- Consider less stressful ways to do things like shopping on line or from catalogs, ordering take out or planning for potluck, limiting decorating, and saying “Not this year, but thanks” to event invites that you know would be too much. Ask for help from those you know will support you. Ask for more if you start to drown.
- Take care of yourself. Beware the temptation to overindulge as a reaction to stress or emotions. Enjoy the meal or beverage slowly (and dessert too!) but stop when you’re done. Have a walk afterwards. Take every opportunity to relax in the ways you enjoy and get your sleep.
- Finally, consider new ways to make the season meaningful. Notice the simple and sacred. Light a candle. Plant a seed. Lift a glass. Give and serve. Worship with and without words. Keep breathing.