Surviving the Holidays When You Don't Feel Like It
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! This is usually accompanied with lights, music, parties, tinsel and glitter. NOT EVERYONE FEELS LIKE THIS during the holidays and some even want to hide from it all. There are many reason for this: death of a loved one, loss of a job and income, chronic illness including addictions and depression, memories of past hurtful holidays and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and those around us. We feel the darkness growing deeper around us. We need encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
Are we "not normal" if we can't join in the festivities and be joyful and merry? No! However you are feeling and however you are dealing with the holidays may be the best you can do at this time. Take a deep breath, close your eyes for a few seconds and accept your current situation. Then take inventory of your situation and your feelings and your resources for coping. You may need to make a list so that you can refer back to it and add to it as necessary.
Re-evaluate what you can handle comfortably even if this means making changes in traditions and rituals. Maybe the shopping will have to be curtailed, the cards not sent this year - or sending a short note instead explaining why you aren't up to the usual. Baking and decorating may not happen at all or be reduced in quantity. The lights and the added sugars may contribute to the depression and loneliness rather than lift your spirits.
Some ideas that have helped others:
- Plan ahead - consider ahead of time what may be expected of you both socially and emotionally and how you can adjust these expectations.
- Trim down to essentials - limit social and family commitments to suit your available energy. Re-evaluate priorities and forego unnecessary activities and obligations.
- Accept your limitations - holidays place additional demands on time and emotions.Plan to lower your expectations to accommodate current needs.
- Make changes - alterations in surroundings, rituals and traditions will diminish stress.
- Ask for and accept help - allow those who care about you to offer their support in concrete ways. Be specific about your preferences and desires.
- Build in flexibility - you are the foremost authority on what is best for you and your needs and these may change from day to day. Take each moment as it comes.
- Give yourself permission "to be" - allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective. Not only is life more complicated, but all energy is siphoned into mental and emotional resolution.
Some churches have a "Dark Christmas" or "Blue Christmas" service during Advent to support people who are having a hard time coping with the holidays, depression and grief. An evening of prayer, scripture, communion, and music that acknowledges that God's presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle, for those who grieve - and that God's Word comes to shine light into our darkness. This is very healing and there are several resources for developing this service, including Episcopal Health Ministries and other internet services.
Remember - "our capacity to love holds hands with our capacity to cry. There's something sacred about sorrow, about loss, about the fact that joy is always braided with a certain quiet sadness. It's there to remind us of our true home, which is and always has been within the heart of God. It's a home from which we can never be separated.
(Marilyn Morgan Helleberg, Daily Guideposts 7/27/00)