How to find light when darkness is around us, and how do we turn to loved ones to get comfort?
Lately in my practice I have been noticing, that as the beauty of Fall gives way to the dark of Winter, as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, that for some, when this seasonal change begins, it comes with a sense of foreboding. It could be as serious as S.A.D (seasonal affect disorder)— for some, it is just the melancholia of winter, or the stress of the holidays.
To add to this seasonal stress we have all been experiencing, there are the anxieties and fears spread by violent and harmful events in our country and in the world. It is at times of such collective stress that we are left feeling vulnerable and alone. In the face of all the latest disturbing events, during this holiday season, we may find ourselves needing to connect with each other even more strongly.
We are realizing that the world is getting smaller, that we are all connected, and that we need to rely and depend on each other. Community, family, relationships, and tribal connection are in our DNA and though some of us may be living in tribes of 1 or 2, reaching out to others becomes ever-so important! It is in those times of stress and of celebration that creating and maintaining our secure attachment connections becomes paramount. In my practice, this time of year, I find that families and couples are struggling to find that secure bond.
Holidays celebrations bring people together; families, tribes, communities and friends at times go on long journeys to connect with loved ones during the Holidays. We naturally turn to each other, to our people, to get comfort and connection and to ward off the hard times because we know that being in touch with those we love is reassuring.
Few months present the multicultural celebrations that December does! Whether you celebrate Christmas, St Nicholas Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice, Diwali, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia, Eid al-Fitr, Boxing Day, Saturnalia, Three Kings Day… or any other holiday this month, chances are that it is celebrated with LIGHTS.
The Winter Solstice occurs on either December 20, 21, 22, or 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the shortest day of the year. People all over the world participate with festivals and celebrations. Long ago, people celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles to coax back the sun. At times of darkness and cold weather, we try to bring in lights and warmth.
Traditions of sitting around the fire, with lights, decorations, music, special foods and feasts, abound. Here in the US, our celebrations include giving gifts, parties, and family get-togethers, which can be wonderful and/or stressful.
Here are some tips to watch for, prevent, and cope with, holiday stress:
1. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be PERFECT or ‘just like last year’.. Allow for change and flexibility. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.
2. Stick to a BUDGET. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Often we feel the need to spend money to show our love. But many times presence comes before presents. And baking cookies or fudge can be economical yummy and fun!!
3. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus, make your shopping list, know how much time it takes to accomplish what you hope for, and take into account that everything takes longer during the holidays, including traffic!
4. Acknowledge your feelings. If you or someone you close to, has recently experienced a loss, or can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. Be honest. Express your needs. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship.
5. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. So often we overextend ourselves only to feel spent exhausted and depleted. Set clear boundaries even with family and friends.
6. Make sure to take some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Don’t neglect your daily practice of exercising, yoga, or meditation.
7. Take time to do NOTHING AT ALL!!!
So with some practical tips, paying attention, and following some of the above, you can minimize the stress of the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.
Please join me and Susan Schreiber on the Women’s Show next monday December 14th at 8pm on KVMR.org where we will be discussing Holiday Stress and How to Cope. Listen in at http://KVMR.org or for the Nevada City, area listen live at 89.5FM on the radio.
~ Please write any comments or questions you may have below.
~ Dalia Anderman, MFT ~