Every year as summer comes to a close, we transition into fall and then immediately into the holiday season. It seems to happen pretty quickly and for some people it is exciting and they thrive on the energy and hustle and bustle but for others, it can be a stressful time that they would rather just skip right over. It can be marked by stress and sadness for you or someone close to you, so let’s talk about the common triggers and how you can be prepared to deal with the holiday blues this year.
Holiday blues are common and can affect anyone, those who have an existing mental health condition, or those who have no prior mental health concerns at all. The feelings are temporary and they can include a variety of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, irritability, etc. Here are 3 common situations or incidences that can trigger these feelings.
The first holiday without a loved one
After losing a loved one every “first” without them is hard. First birthday, first holidays, first anything that you would have done with them. It goes on at least a year because for a whole 12 months, until you reach the anniversary of their death, you will do things without them for the first time.
Holidays like Christmas are especially hard because it’s a holiday that focuses on getting together with family and friends and someone you love very much is not there. It’s also a holiday that focuses on traditions and carrying on those traditions without your loved one may be hard, or in some cases, not possible anymore.
“Inventing new traditions can be cathartic, especially if they involve honoring your loved one in a way that’s comforting for everyone. Let others who are also dealing with the loss help you come up with these new traditions, so they can feel invested and you are not shouldering all the responsibility.”
(“Facing the first holiday season without your loved one”. Empathy.com. www.empathy.com/grief/facing-the-first-holiday-season-without-your-loved-one)
If you are feeling sad, don’t hide it; confide in family and friends because they may also be feeling sad and you can lean on each other. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions even though it is supposed to be a happy time. Those two emotions (happiness and sadness) can exist together, you don’t have to choose one or the other.
The first holiday after a divorce or break up
After a divorce or break up how you spend your holiday is definitely going to look different because your inner circle has changed. Not only do you not have that partner with you, who was more than likely present at every holiday gathering that you were involved with, but their family and friends are probably not a part of your gatherings anymore either. So you are grieving the loss of multiple people. And if you have children then there may be struggles between the two of you as you decide how to share your time with them during the holidays.
Kristen Hick of MeetMindful.com shares 10 Tips for Post-Divorce Holiday Survival and the first is to validate your difficulty. She says, “The holidays are harder right now. Trying to convince yourself otherwise (or that you shouldn’t feel the way you do) will only make the feelings more intense. Do yourself a favor and validate that this may be difficult, maybe even really difficult.”
(Hick, Kristen. “10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays After a Divorce”. Meet Mindful. www.meetmindful.com/10-tips-for-surviving-the-holidays-after-a-divorce)
Other tips include establishing boundaries, staying present and creating new traditions.
It is important to remain flexible and put your mental health first. It’s okay if everything doesn’t go perfectly, there will be a learning curve as you figure out your new normal and new traditions.
Keep in mind that the first holiday is always the hardest and although there may always be some sadness associated with the divorce or break up during the holidays, it will get better.
Strained family relationships can have a negative impact on you any time of the year because most people want to get along and have a good relationship with their relatives. So when you enter a time of the year where families are expected to get together it can be tense. If you have ongoing drama within your family or family members who don’t get along, just thinking about getting together for the holidays can get you down or stress you out.
One of the best ways to handle family drama during the holidays and prepare yourself for it is to set boundaries. “When set in a compassionate way, boundaries can protect both ourselves and our family members. We care for ourselves first by establishing our own limits and needs so that we can feel safe and comfortable, and in turn, we’re able to show up better for loved ones.”
(“How to handle family drama during the holidays”. Headspace. www.headspace.com/mindfulness/family-drama-holidays)
We talked about the basics of setting boundaries in a previous post HERE.
If you think ahead to what may be said, what behaviors may surface or what may cause tension when you are together with your family, you can prepare yourself by practicing how you will respond and when you need to take a break. This will prevent you from reacting impulsively and saying or doing something you will regret.
Here are a few tips you can use to beat the holiday blues no matter what triggers them:
- Move your body
- Stay connected
- Make room for mindfulness
- Focus on what you can control
- Plan ahead
- Give yourself permission to say no