The calendar page turns to December, and the days are densely populated with holiday celebrations and year end commitments. Do you feel dread, stress or excitement building as you begin to fantasize about all the holiday tasks ahead?
For many people the winter holidays are a time of inflated expectations. Magazine articles and television commercials are filled with images of people laughing and enjoying picture perfect holiday meals, new cars wrapped in big ribbons, and stories about the trendiest gifts to buy this year.
As much as we’d all like our holiday to look and feel like a magical moment from a classic Hollywood movie – it’s simply not realistic. Trying to impress with the latest recipe, or a pricey gift can put a lot of pressure on you both emotionally and financially.
And rather than childhood nostalgia, the trip back home or to visit the in-laws can trigger personality and agenda clashes between family members. Addiction and mental health issues may add further complications. Or maybe you are spending the holidays alone this year – which can trigger feelings of loneliness or loss.
No Such Thing as a Perfect Holiday
The first thing to remember is no one has a perfect holiday – the stories told on film and television there to entertain us, not be a roadmap for us. The next thing to remember is you are not alone. And not everyone feels excited and happy about the holidays.
Look around your community for opportunities to volunteer this month. Serving meals at a soup kitchen, or helping package or deliver gifts to needy families will help you feel valued and connected to others.
Some faith communities host a “Blue Christmas” service for those who are grieving or sad during the holidays. Joining in one of these celebrations is a reminder we are not alone, and you may even find yourself feeling comfort and hope as you gather and sing with others.
4 Mental Health Tips for a Happier Holiday Season
Here are some mental health tips for a happier holiday season from Turning Point CEO Ann Fisher Raney, AM, LCSW.
- Take time to reflect. How do you want to observe the holiday? Try not to let media and commercialism dictate how you and your loved ones spend your time together.
- Get outside! Bundle up, take a walk, go skating or sledding – or watch the skaters and sledders, and come home to hot chocolate and a board game or two.
- Connect with someone who might be lonely or isolated. Do you have a neighbor or friend who may be alone this holiday? Consider stopping by with a treat, inviting them over for a bowl of soup, or shoveling their walk on a snowy morning.
- Rest! The dark days of winter are wonderful occasions for reading, napping, enjoying the quiet of the season.
Simplify, slow down, get outside, do something kind for someone, appreciate the differences in others. There are as many ways to celebrate the holidays as there are families.
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