By Maria Zepeda, NBC-HWC, and Julie Rowin, MD
The Holiday Season is upon us, and this means a wonderful time for some and a difficult time for many. We are living through times of uncertainty and ambiguity which can feel overwhelming. Here are some suggestions on how to better cope with the challenges we face during the 2022 holiday season.
Recognize your feelings. Many people feel lonely during the holidays. If you are following social distancing, loneliness and isolation may be even more prevalent. Allow yourself to accept how you are feeling. If you have been coping well, its ok to feel happy and to not feel guilty about it. If it has been a year of challenging circumstances, then allow and accept those associated feelings. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season. What matters is that you accept how you are feeling, reminding yourself that everything is temporary.
Follow your heart. Once you have figured out how you are feeling, ask yourself what your true desire for this holiday season is, and make it that. Do you want to put up holiday decorations? Do you want to give gifts, or would you rather donate to those less fortunate? Maybe your energy is low this year and you want to take a complete break from celebrating. Remember that it is ok to say “No”.
Stay present. Avoid focusing on what’s happened during the past year or past holidays and avoid trying to predict what may happen in the future. Focus on what you can control, your thoughts in the present moment. If you find yourself feeling anxious, overwhelmed or disappointed, then practice slowing down. Consider going for a walk, meditating, journaling or practicing breathing techniques.
Avoid comparisons. Comparing yourself to others and what they are or aren’t doing for the holiday season can result in feeling defeated. Their situation isn’t your situation and everyone’s experience is different. Take a break from social media and the artificial portrayal of what the holidays should look like.
Share your feelings of gratitude. Gratitude is a practice that has been shown to promote resilience during challenging times. No matter how difficult the situation, if we dig deep enough, we can find something to be grateful for. Make a practice of starting to notice the positives, the little things that bring you joy, and then sharing your feelings of gratitude with someone ‘out loud’. And most importantly, make it a point to express your gratitude for loved ones TO THEM this year.
Be realistic. The most joy comes from the simple pleasure of just being and accepting what is. If you are fortunate enough to be with others during this holiday season, then enjoy being together and expressing the gratitude you feel. If you are struggling with MG, this holiday may look different. You may need to find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos or meeting virtually on a video call.
Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless. If these feelings persist, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.