The holiday season is upon us. It’s that time of the year where there is that something special in the air. Bright, colorful decorations light up our homes and streets. Kids return from college. Families travel to be together. Holiday parties abound, and the young children get excited. Visions of warm fireplaces, exuberant laughter, comfy sweaters, abundant food, and beautifully wrapped presents fill our heads. It’s a time for reflection, peace, and gratitude.
As the song goes….’Tis The season to be jolly.
Ah, if only that were true for everyone. You see, the holidays can bring with them some serious difficulties for so many of us — loneliness; the absence of loved ones that have passed; painful memories of broken families; a longing for the way things used to be; or regrets from a past we cannot change. These thoughts can bring on severe sadness and depression.
In addition, at family gatherings or holiday get-togethers, we are at times in the position of having to “put up with” someone, or there may be intense pressure to “avoid conflict.” Resentments, friction, scorn, and envy often belie the Hallmark card image of the family gathering, an idea that is rarely realistic. Know anyone who says, “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over?!” We do.
And let’s not forget to mention the excessive commercialism and materialism that surrounds this time of year. The stampeding crowds of eager bargain hunters, the crowded malls, and the incessant advertising.
At Rebel Health, We Bring Awareness
Now, we are not trying to bah humbug the holidays, although we admit that we’ve never been labeled “Pollyanna’s” either. But what we have described is a more truthful caricature of what the holidays really look like for some. And at Rebel Health, we bring awareness to the truth of all things that impact our health. And the stress, sadness, anxiety, and depression that hits so many during the holidays is real. It manifests into our physical health as sleeplessness, overeating, elevated blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and more. How we deal with these tough emotions is critical. We often choose unhealthy coping mechanisms such as medicating (excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, binge eating, too much caffeine, etc.); isolating; and/or shutting down mentally and physically. This typically results in a pile-on of more negativity, specifically feelings of guilt and shame.
Before we mention some our favorite, healthy ways of dealing with the dark side of the holiday season, it is important to first understand that negative thoughts and emotions are a part of life, albeit difficult. Pain and challenge offer us an opportunity to overcome and grow. To feel pain is to appreciate ease and comfort. This is how we build our inner strength so that we can be strong for others.
To help us navigate the troubled waters choose to try some of these:
– Move a muscle, change a thought. In other words, get physically active. Anything will do: walking, running, biking, hiking, yoga, weights, punching bag (love ‘em), rebounder, Zumba, or tango. Shit, break dance if that’s your thing. Exercise stimulates the release of dopamine, a mood-enhancing hormone. More and more studies are linking exercise to the improvement of mental health.
– Do things that elevate you personally. Put on some music, engage in your hobbies, watch a funny sitcom or uplifting movie, reach out to people who always make you feel good. Take action and enjoy the activities that you enjoy.
Developing these habits will help you navigate through troubled waters
– Get solid rest and sleep. Yes, easier said than done but the exercise will help. In addition, try sleep non-medical sleep promoters. You can try darkening your room; investing in comfortable bedding, or shutting off all electronics and detaching from as much external stimulus as possible an hour or two before bed. You can also take a hot shower or warm bath; engage in prayer, meditation, or deep breathing. This stuff really works, and better, longer sleep is critical to our physical health.
– Ask for help and get connected. Help? I don’t need any help? Yes, you do and that is ok. It is not a weakness. Asking for help is strong and courageous. It’s exercising solid self-care and self-preservation. Talk to a friend. Speak with a therapist. Join a support group. Reach out to others who can understand and identify. They are out there. You are never the only one who has felt what you are feeling.
*OUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE*
– Help others / be of service. Nothing soothes the soul better than the gratification of helping someone in need especially when we ourselves are discontent. Offer help to the cold, the hungry, the hurting, perhaps people just like you. It can be simple – a warm smile; a buck in the Salvation Army can; a clothing donation; food drive; or toys for orphans. Perhaps visiting someone you know who is lonely this year or inviting them over is the way to go. It is in giving that we receive, in comforting that we are comforted. Others are hurting too, and we can all lift each other up by being kind and thoughtful.