Feeling those holiday blues? I’ve been there too. I spent a few years dreading the holidays because of circumstances in my life that caused me sorrow and were out of my control. Though in those moments I felt like things would never get better, there were precious lessons I learned that helped me face these blues with a little more grace and understanding.
Below are three things I found to be crucial in my ability to turn those “not so jolly times” into moments with “a little holiday cheer”. It took effort and boldness to face my heart, but the outcome was so worth the work!
Be Real and Open
If there is one thing I have learned from my experiences it is hat we have to be honest with yourselves when it comes to our emotional state. Ignoring our heart eventually leaves our mind overwhelmed and feeling suffocated with ununderstood emotions. All this can lead us down more difficult paths filled with depression and greater pain if left ignored. We must be honest with ourselves, stop our distractions and learn to process through what we are feeling in order to take the needed actions toward a healthier heart and mind.
One of the best ways to do this is to intentionally set quiet time aside where you can write (yes, write) out what you are feeling. I find that being able to read back on what you have process allows your mind to better understand what your heart is feeling while also allowing your brain space as it has one less thing to think of. If you are thinking “I do not have a second to spare in my schedule” allow me to remind you that bathroom breaks and showers can be extended, and commutes are a great time to reflect instead of doing mindless activities. Don’t forget to pray for clarity in the process each time you sit to reflect, these are the moments when confusion can be thrown on us and we need the spiritual covering to walk with us.
If you are finding it difficult to start the process of reflecting to understand what you are feeling, check out our Reflections page for examples on the types of questions you can work through.
Be Strong – Set Boundaries
Oh what a dreaded word “boundaries” can be. Cue the eye-roll, right? Wrong! Boundaries are the very things that help create a safe and healthy space for us to live out of. It takes boldness to apply them at first, but when you have weight lifted off your shoulders by them, you begin to realize how needed they are in life. Once you have come to pinpoint the stressors in your holiday season, think about what boundaries you can put in place that put your mental and emotional health in a good place. For me it was choosing which Christmas family events I would attend and finding a loving way of explaining my absence. Remember that how people choose to react to a decision made with love and good intention is not your responsibility, your weight to carry or your job to fix. Perhaps for you it will be saying no to a work or family event, or choosing to not fly home and instead place that money towards other bills, or even ending a relationship that might ruin someone else’s Christmas (it’s okay, it’s better than faking it with important family members). Setting boundaries is about saying “this is where I draw the line between you and I for our well-being and safety”. They are not meant to be drawn out of malice or anger, but out of a place that says “this is what I need to remain healthy in our relationship”. Always pray for wisdom and check your intentions when setting boundaries to ensure they are the right choice for that specific circumstance.
Be Purposeful and Intentional
Being intentional with our time during the holidays can help us align our values during this season, keeping us on track with doing things that will bring us little bits of joy and create positive memories. Hiding under blankets with Netflix for a week straight can actually deepen our depression and hopelessness, so make sure that you are getting changed and getting out of your home for fresh air. It is also important to be intentional with the free quiet time you have. These are the perfect moments to sit and understand why the holidays make you feel as you are, and work through resources to enable you to turn something heavy into something positive and productive for your emotional and mental health.
Family: if your holiday blues are due to family drama, be intentional with how you approach time with them. If you do not feel strong/equipped enough to face a family meal that may bring heartache with it, be intentional about going for coffee with family members you do want to see and share your time with. Perhaps a dinner with everyone is too much, but a smaller gathering may be manageable. The goal is to not have complete avoidance, but to find healthy paths with our boundaries that still allow us to be present in different ways.
Loneliness: if your holiday blues are due to feeling alone with family afar or a recent breakup, try connecting with friends and community. There is this belief in society that “family is everything” but I am a true believer that “relationship is everything”. We can have friends that are closer than family and family that has no friendship. Sometimes we place too much importance on titles and not enough on the content of these relationships. This is why I love things like “friendsgiving”, it shows you that family is truly in the community that surrounds you (as well as in your actual blood relatives) and there is nothing wrong with placing those relationships where family has traditionally stood. If your family is abroad or absent, get together with friends, join their families for Christmas dinner – don’t be afraid to ask! There are also community groups that hold Christmas dinner for those that are without a place to go, and though at first you might be hesitant, it might be a great place to connect and talk with individuals that understand the emotions surrounding your situation. Be bold and step out! What do you have to lose (other than maybe pride, which is not a bad thing)?
Loss: if your holiday blues are due to the loss of a loved one, think of things you can do in their honour. Perhaps you can cook their favourite meal and enjoy it with loved ones, or even by yourself. Attend their favourite community holiday events, or keep a tradition of theirs alive. It is not to say that these moments will take the pain away, but they can help shape your heart towards the season while keeping their memory close. It is finding comfort amidst the pain. If your loss is a breakup, gear more towards traditions with family and friends, or even create new traditions to have for yourself that bring you joy.
Finances: if your holiday blues are due tofinancial stress, revisit the paragraph on boundaries and consider which ones you could put in place. The hubs and I have had to have these uncomfortable conversations with his family regarding the amount of money that is spent out of “expectation”, especially during tight financial times. We have been advocates for such things as Christmas Kringle and Secret Santa to replace purchasing gifts for every member of several extended families. Thought some where negative about it, most family member were onboard with saving money themselves and the traditions has continued a few years in a row. I have also started opting out of how many gift exchanges I join and bringing food to events instead. Sounds a little odd at first, but as long as you keep a positive and enjoyable attitude (no pity parties!) everyone will enjoy a bite while they play. The main thing is to not feel bad for choosing to be financially responsible. Gifts come in many forms, we have to learn to look beyond the materialistic items. This can even be a great time for your children to learn about the value of giving back and the importance of being intentional with the gifts we do give. For more advice on budget friendly gift options check out our other Christmas posts.
Whatever is causing your holiday blues, know that you are not alone in facing them- there are many of us that can relate with our own circumstances. Be open to sharing your heart with individuals that are a safe space for you. Reaching out can be difficult because we often have to put our pride aside, but oh the comfort and peace that can come from saying “me too” and walking through this season with a hand to help lift you up. You CAN do it.
Sending love during this season,