Greetings!!! It has been some time since I've published a piece, so I thought the holidays were as good a time as ever to share some resources a tips. It has certainly been another interesting, long year in some ways and in others, time certainly continues to fly!
The holiday season certainly brings on its' own set of challenges. We continue to navigate various nuances living in a pandemic, our bodies all adjust differently to having fewer daylight hours, and for many of us the holidays are a time full of triggers related to our past or current grief and traumas. Society is fully of visual reminders of how the holidays are "supposed to be." Images of happy families, couples getting engaged, young adult children coming home from college, and young soldiers returning home to surprise their loved ones for a holiday break. But, what if that isn't a reality for us all? As time passes and as we age, we are more likely to have experienced a profound loss, have stressful responsibilities that remind us we aren't exactly where we want to be in life/career/finances, experience some sort of health stressor, or are questioning some of the decisions we have made to date. While the holidays are supposed to be this grand time of celebration and joy, for many of us it brings up various types of not so joyous triggers.
Here are some tips to consider for coping during the holidays:
Be honest with yourself. It sound simple, but often times we take this for granted, especially in communities of color. Our history is one that involves not having fully agency or permission to freely be ourselves, so we learned how to silence our needs and show up for others even when we have no fruitful energy to offer. Being honest with yourself requires you to give yourself permission to simply say "no." Perhaps you can't attend every holiday event, you can't accept every invitation, you don't feel like engaging with draining relationships, or you don't want to over exert your financial resources this season. The practice of being honest with yourself can help you to learn to put yourself as a priority and to learn how to practice establishing your boundaries with others.
Don't worry about hurting or offending other people. True, loving, supportive relationships won't make you feel guilty for not doing something you don't want to do. If you know you don't have the energy to cook, host a number of people, do all of the shopping, or attend the family get-together, then don't. We must know the difference for ourselves in what feels like a supportive environment and what feels too triggering or overwhelming. We can't continue to keep putting other people's feelings ahead of our own when we aren't in a good headspace.
Allow yourself moments of joy. There's something about the dull, painful presence of grief that seems to shock us first thing in the morning. Billie Holiday says it best in "Good Morning, Heartache." When we are finally able to sleep and quiet our minds from some of our painful realities, that morning rude-awakening can be overwhelmingly hard. Because we know that grief has a complicated relationship with time, we must remind ourselves that joy can exist simultaneously. We may deeply miss our loved one, but we smile at the warm memories. We may be depressed from losing the job or the relationship, but that God for that one cousin or uncle who makes you laugh deep in your belly, giving your soul opportunity to rest from the pain. Sometimes we feel guilty for feeling happy "too soon" or recognizing "joy" too quickly after something painful happens. But, we were created to experience an abundance of emotional resilience. Just as grief isn't going anywhere, remember that it's okay that joy isn't either. Give yourself permission to hold onto it.
Hopefully these few times got you thinking about what you can do differently this holiday season. You may come across many other resources with great tips, such as prioritizing rest, continuing to exercise, engage in your faith community, and spend time in supportive relationships. Those are all very essential tools to keep in mind. But sometimes the deeper issue is not being in touch with our deeper emotional needs. Let this be a season of allowing yourself to take care of your whole inner-self and take up space in a different way.
If you found these helpful, you may be interested in attending this virtual event on the afternoon/evening of December 9th. We will have deeper conversations about the importance of managing self-care, grief, and coping during the holidays. This will especially be good for those who have experienced a loss, a health issue are may be caregiving for a loved one.
You may also find these journals or devotional helpful if you need a place in addition to or outside of your therapeutic/supportive spaces.
Take care of yourselves this holiday season in a way that you never have before. You are worthy!