The holidays can be a paralyzing time for lots of people. It’s easy to feel alone, even when you’re surrounded by others. Guess what? You’re not the only one who feels this way. Look around, at work, among your friends, other family members, in other circles of your life, and you will discover you’ve got company. Death of loved ones, divorce and custody arrangements, geographic distances, and singleness can make it a challenge with the expectations Christmas can bring. I struggled with it for probably 20 years until I finally realized Norman Rockwell was a great illusionist.
My tips for people who can’t wait to turn the calendar to January. (If you have responsibilities for others, adjust accordingly.)
- Give yourself permission to feel sad and have a pity party, but put limits on it. It was not a coincidence mine never lasted more than two hours – about the length of a sappy cable movie, or two hours of a Hart to Hart marathon.
- Start your own traditions and if your new Christmas Eve meal is popcorn, Twizzlers and chocolate pudding, no big deal. You’ve got 364 other days to be good.
- Move a little. Get outside. Put on some dance music and shimmy. Go for a walk beyond the refrigerator. You will feel so much better and probably sleep better.
- Find one holiday experience to get excited about. Attend a concert, drive around and look at decorations, go to stores and actually shop for yourself – everyone can use some new pajamas.
- Figure out what makes you happy and indulge in it for one day. Stay in bed and read, binge watch TV, cook, craft, clean closets – lots of choices.
- Decorate. Don’t let the blues prevent you from recalling happier times, and looking forward. The year I didn’t haul out my boxes of decorations was the worst Christmas ever. You don’t have to put up a tree or go to elaborate lengths, but add some sparkle and bling somewhere, even if you’re the only one who will see it. You deserve it.
- Check out local church services, even if it’s been a while since you attended. Many have special services in addition to Christmas Eve and Christmas day. In my home area, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church offers a service on Monday, Dec 19 at 6:00 on Suffering and Pain amidst the Christmas Season, and The People’s Church in East Lansing holds a special Longest Night service on Wednesday, Dec 21 at 6:30. (It is estimated that 20% of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder.)
- Bake your favorite holiday recipe and share it with someone else who could use some kindness.
- Consider volunteering. It’s a great way to spend time with others.
Tips for People who want to help someone suffering from a blue Christmas:
- Invite them, but understand if they decline. It’s not enough to say “well, you know you’re always welcome.”
- Drop a card or note in the mail. Everyone loves getting snail mail.
- Call if you haven’t seen them in a while. A simple “I’m thinking of you” can make all the difference in the world.
- Don’t make a fuss or complain if they start to get weepie or cry. No one likes attention drawn to this, and its ok if you don’t understand it.
- Give them a warm hug, unless you know for sure they wouldn’t like that. Some people are “touch” sensitive.
- Drop off a tasty treat for them.
- Be aware for more serious signs and offer to help. NAMI (http://www.nami.org/#) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great resource in additional to local resources.
My wish is for everyone to have a great holiday season. But sometimes, good, or even tolerable is ok, too. There’s help available if you need it, but just ask and take the guess work out of it.