That Time of Year Again – Tips for Navigating the Holiday Season
Rebecca Crichton, Executive Director, Northwest Center for Creative Aging
We are already starting to gear up for the holiday season. For many, the period from Halloween through year’s end causes dread. The shortening days and diminishing light don’t help. And it’s not only the external expectations to buy and give, decorate and celebrate, it’s the internal process of confronting what the holidays mean to us and require of us.
For people who are dealing with chronic illness, disability, loss and grief and other
challenging situations, the upcoming season can feel demanding, difficult and depressing.
The good news is that there are ample resources that can help you prepare for and manage the holiday season. The Internet has many websites specific to coping with grief, chronic illness, depression and other situations that might sap the joy from the season. Whatever you are facing, there are some common themes:
Begin by thinking forward and communicating with the people you spend your holidays with to get agreement about what kinds of plans and traditions you want to have. Which traditions do you and those close to you observe? Decide which you want to keep, which ones you want to change and what new ones you might add.
Remember that other people may want different things and may make choices that don’t work for you. It is okay to have different needs and expectations.
Let go of perfectionism. The perfect tree, meal, gifts and other efforts might not be possible. Don’t let others determine what you ‘should’ do for the holidays. Listen to yourself and trust your sense of what you need and then communicate that to the people around you.
Connect with members of your community – your family, friends, members of your spiritual community or other groups and ask for support. Make an honest assessment of what you can give and what you need help with. When people offer help, accept it, as uncomfortable as that might feel. Also consider what you can still offer to others. Remind yourself that needing help doesn’t mean you have nothing to share or give to others.
Take Care of Yourself
Hard as can be to do, the basics still apply: get enough sleep, eat healthy food (portion control might be the answer to the endless opportunities to eat less healthy food), exercise to the extent you can. Exercise can relive stress and always makes you feel better about yourself.
Schedule in whatever helps you feel inner peace. Make some quiet time for yourself – listen to music, meditate, journal. They all help you stay connected with what you need to stay centered.
Finally, make a practice of seeking gratitude. Even one daily gratitude can help you feel better. Share that with others and ask them what they feel grateful for. That is a gift you both give and get!