Be the change for the Holidays

With many holidays quickly upon us, it seems time to gather those closest to us and begin preparations for celebrations.

Celebrations can mean a variety of things; gathering at a relative’s home, hosting friends or enjoying the time off with plenty of goodies. It can be a time of so much fun and joy for many. Spreading joy is a huge part of these seasons, from gift giving to gathering with friends and family. It can also be a time of stress and sadness even for the happiest of folks. Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment. There can be many causes of sad feelings during the holidays: social isolation, grieving the loss of a loved one, holiday pressures and even Seasonal Depressive disorders.

Admitting these feelings exist during this time can be a hard topic to talk about and even harder to bring up with your loved ones. Being able to recognize the struggle in others is a gift not many have been given, but one we are all able to learn. There are many reasons to feel down during the holidays but even more reasons to help those around us struggling at this time. It may not seem like much, but setting a place for someone can make a world of difference in their day. Invite your friends over for coffee or out to lunch. The break away from daily life could be a special treat for you both during these busy times.

Trying to be realistic with expectations is something I personally struggle with this time of year. The holidays don’t have to be perfect, just like last year or how mom and grandma did it. The best holiday season is the one filled with good memories. As families grow and change, traditions can as well. One of the best parts of holidays is making your very own fun traditions. Even though your holidays may look a little different now, you can always find new ways to celebrate.

Focusing on the good this time of year is extra important, specifically focusing on the good people in your life. Gatherings can be immensely stressful if you don’t see eye-to-eye with family or guests. Choosing to focus attention on those who bring joy to you can be helpful in these instances. When multiple generations or multiple families celebrate together it can be challenging to feel heard or understood. Being clear about what you need most and flexible about the rest can help. While extra social gatherings can be exciting, you don’t want to compromise your physical or mental health by doing too much. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything for everyone.

It is important during this time of giving to remember self care as well. Eating well, getting regular sleep and trying to exercise regularly are great places to start. As little as 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medication. A morning alone or a hot bath with a book can’t be overlooked in these busy times either. With a little planning and some positive thinking, finding peace during the holiday season is doable for everyone.

One thing I like to do for instance, and recommend, is to try to plan at least one activity that is important to you for each holiday you celebrate. If you just love sledding, baking or caroling make sure it is on the holiday list. Feel free to initiate activities with family and friends, making sure everyone has a chance to join in on the fun. A simple phone call could turn into a fun filled day.

Consider volunteer activities too if you are looking for things to add to your list. You may be surprised at the amount of opportunities there are during this season. Many churches and other organizations hold dinners and other events. Joining in the fun not only feels good but can introduce you to new friends in your community. Making a plan well in advance can give you something to look forward to and help you feel a greater sense of control. Hopefully planning ahead can help ease some holiday tension.

Being able to accept offers to help shop, wrap or cook can make a difference. Some people may not know how best to help, especially if your needs and desires have changed from last year. Most people are happy to help as long as they understand clearly what you want and they have enough time to provide the support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer even though both can be hard. Sometimes a helping hand or homemade gift or meal means immensely more to someone than a gift card.

Offering help can come in many forms and sometimes may even have to come forcefully. By not taking no for an answer it shows people they are cared for. It’s easy to think an invitation may only be extended out of obligation, showing otherwise by setting a place only takes a few minutes.

Spreading joy can be as simple as sharing smiles and a friendly attitude everywhere you go. Handmade or carefully selected gifts never hurt either during this season. Staying warm and eating wonderful food can brighten anyone’s spirits, don’t forget to extend an extra invite or two this year.

Recent times have turned life upside down for many people. You never know who may be struggling and who you are able to help. Offering help is one of the best gifts you are able to give. Shoveling a neighbor’s walk, helping at a church dinner or just making a phone call to chat with a friend, don’t take too much time and can make someone’s day.

You can be the change you want to see this holiday season by looking out for yourself with self care as well as extending a hand to help others feel the holiday cheer.


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