Here we are, approaching the holidays. Do we ever actually ‘approach’ the holidays, or do the holidays kind of sneak up and take over? Although it’s not quite Thanksgiving, we’ve noticed the Christmas movies, the first Christmas trees in stores and malls, or perhaps heard questions like “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”
There are times when holidays bring up certain feelings that can run the gamut from looking forward in excitement, to tolerating spending time with people we don’t always like, to dreading the time of the year when it seems ‘everyone’ has someplace to go, but maybe not you.
Find yourself on that spectrum of feeling, and if you see yourself leaning toward the second or third, then read on for some hints and suggestions that may assist during this time of year.
And a note: Many people tend to feel less than happy, less steady, or even more sad or depressed during this time. You are not alone in those feelings, and there are ways to help others through, as well as yourself. If it’s survival of the fittest during this time of year, then let us get fit and healthy and do much more than survive.
The greater New Orleans area affords many wonderful outlets for having a good time, connecting with friends, meeting new people, and participating in LGBTQ+ activities. Holiday time has a way of placing our perceptions in a somewhat vulnerable situation, where there is what I call ‘anticipatory stress and depression’ because we may have previously had less than happy holidays, so almost automatically those feels emerge.
Anticipating feeling sad, lonely or down is powerful for many, and can actually predict what the current holidays will bring. Part of feeling strong and steady consistently does require some effort and a focus on self, positivity and hope for YOU, as well as others.
Take a look at the suggestions below, and perhaps choose a few to try. If you already do some of these, consider how you might do different ones, or add to what you already do. Your ability to create a healthier plan in the coming season can only be a good thing, adding to your self-care regimen.
1. If you feel isolated, seek out community, social events, volunteer events; even a long phone call with a friend/family member from out-of-town will help you feel connected.
2. If you’re planning to be with a larger group of friends/family, realize you may not be close to, or even know everyone. Work on accepting new people for themselves, especially during that event, and try to engage & learn about others.
3. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. Pace yourself, only you can know when you’re stressed and anxious and need some alone or breathing time.
4. Overdoing it only adds to your stress and guilt. Ways to stay centered include getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising in any form, even if it’s only taking a walk to your destination…or a longer more scenic one there.
5. Take time for yourself. Meditate, try intentional breathing, visualize something that pleases you. If you like to read, plan a trip to the library, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble and find a few books you’d like to read.
6. Writing about your feelings can help, especially at a time of anticipatory stress. If there are feelings of isolation and discomfort about sharing with people, then share with yourself – yes, it’s a thing. Self-sharing and self-expression is a powerful way in which to get those feelings out, to be acknowledged and seen by yourself. Get a journal, or a notebook, and use it to gain clarity.
7. It’s normal to feel sadness at times. If that’s around holidays, say it to yourself, to a close friend or partner. Admit it and go from there.
8. Make use of any activities that you used in the past to assist in feeling more positive. The circumstances may have changed a bit, but the ideas remain the same, and it’s likely your reaction to them will remain positive as well.
9. Conversely, if there were activities through the years that did not work out for you, that hurt you in some way, or compromised you, do not engage in them now. Sounds so logical, but it’s difficult to change a pattern, even one that yields a negative result, time after time. There is always an alternative, even when it’s not immediately visible to you. Be patient and continue to look at options for activities.
10. Create something. If you are an individual fortunate enough to have experience creating a painting, writing poetry, doing needlework or weaving, singing, playing music, dancing, creating a drag performance, designing clothing, decorating a home, or creating a new recipe & then cooking it — use those skills. Many of us have a creative perspective, but we don’t often use it, or don’t trust it, so we don’t spend time on it. Anything in the creative arts, using a very broad view of that definition, has something to say. Using your creativity on a consistent basis in times of loneliness or sadness is an extremely powerful antidote, and can help soothe you like no other.
I hope you’ll add to this list, ponder what’s best for you right now, especially during this next month or so. Know your strength and use it to keep healthy, positive and open. The last suggestion for this week is to use humor when you can, laugh when it’s funny, smirk if it’s not, and just see the light. Invite the smile to come. There are many funny things that we see every day that we don’t often acknowledge. There are even things that we do that are humorous. Let the smiles prevail, and laugh at the funny when you can.