Holidays are high pressure. Struggling with depression or grief or loneliness when you look online and on television and see others appearing full of joy and enthusiasm can make you feel ten times MORE lonely, grief-stricken and sad. I akin the holiday pressure to be stoked to see family or decorate or share positive meals with the people in your life as similar to the pressure for women to be a size 2 or parents to be perfect or anyone to look put together all the time.
Television and social media are not real. Pictures of people levitating in joy because they are with the “people they love” and the “perfect children” during the holidays may or may not be true. Some of them are true and, maybe in a lot of cases, they are just pictures. Some people are happy during the holidays, and others aren’t. And many people, perhaps you or a friend, who is all alone, or who is estranged from family, or who lost their partner this year, or who lost their job last week or who has nobody who even calls to check on them during the holidays, or who has a son who is on drugs and nowhere to be found, may be feeling super isolated and sad.
This week’s blog is dedicated to anyone who is suffering or alone this time of year, or anyone who in general feels pressure to be ON POINT or obligated to be with a certain group of people they don’t want to be with just to “look good” during the holidays — so basically, anyone who needs some extra support finding joy/gratitude and fulfillment whether the holidays are fulfilling for them this year or not.
Three Ways to Feel Grateful When the Holidays Make You Sad
1.Look at the Bigger Picture
Like I alluded to earlier, holidays are like the biggest high pressure time of the year (that second only to maybe weddings) and it seems that even if you aren’t a person who has a religious propensity to celebrate things like Christmas, that media and groups of people still pressure you to do so. Sometimes, people who struggle with loneliness and depression feel worse when the pressure is on to “look good” or the illusion is out there that everyone is dancing in the streets and eating amazing foods that are locally grown and organic with the people they adore and love the most.
Reality check. You don’t really know. Pressure isn’t reality. And thinking that your insides are a reflection of other people’s outsides is also not reality. People can put on anything they need to in order to convince themselves of anything and survive. Some of the “happiest” and “most together” people you see walking around the planet are in the most pain; they just learned to be put together to avoid feeling how hurt they may really be.
Now these observations aren’t to assert that NOBODY is happy during the holidays and NOBODY is joy-filled and with the right people; because of course joy exists and families love each other and some people are with the people they are in love with and adore the most; but that doesn’t mean everyone is…and just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean you have to do it or shame yourself for not doing it.
Everyone in life goes through hard times. Everyone. Right now, if you are reading this and searching for any way to feel okay when you don’t feel okay; maybe it is a hard time. Maybe it has been a hard year. Maybe, for some of you, through no fault of your own, it has just been a hard life. You aren’t alone. And other people are out there either feeling the way you feel, or looking for the same thing(s) you are.
We all want joy. To some of us it comes effortlessly and to others, we have to fight our entire lives to find that feeling. That is okay. It is still available to you.
If you are feeling like you are caught in the abyss of the holiday doldrums, then take out a piece of paper. Write down the facts. What have been the bigger picture realities of your life? What successes have you had? How have you found that when you needed support or even a smile — at times, you HAVE gotten it? And don’t say never. There is always something good in any life. Even if it feels small…there is something there.
On the same piece of paper, maybe journal about how just because you feel bad during this holiday, it doesn’t mean you will for every one for rest of your life, or maybe not every day for the rest of your life. Write about the big picture of your life, your relationships and your actual reality. It isn’t ALL bad. You may feel bad today or this time of year or even most of the year, but you still have choices. And writing down some facts is definitely one of them.
Maybe even write down ONE thing you do well at in life. Or one thing you are proud of. And then write down all the choices you have around this holiday event and options you have to even make your space a safe one for you and what you need this time of year.
2. Make A NEW Decision.
Maybe you aren’t alone this year. Maybe you are supposed to be with people you feel obligated to be with (or planning to be) and you feel resentful and sad and hurt that you feel powerless to “just say no” to a group or environment or family situation that feels toxic this time of year. Maybe it isn’t even toxic, maybe your family is just fine, but you just don’t want to go. Maybe you don’t want to do the same old thing because you feel obligated to do so — and maybe you just want to live your life on your terms..for just this once. Maybe you have spent your whole life showing up for everyone to please them and missed out on what YOU want to do. Do it now, then. Don’t make excuses. You DO have choices. If you PREFER to be with your dog or pet your cat or walk down the streets and look at the holiday lights with a damn white chocolate mocha with colorful sprinkles on top — then do it. Time goes quickly, and you doing what you don’t want to do to please other people might not be working. Maybe it hasn’t gotten you your dreams in life.
There is still time.
Conversely, if you are alone and you hate being alone, then don’t. Go to a movie. Go help someone in need. Go sit on the porch and stare at the sky and give smiles to OTHER people walking around who might feel alone. Again, you have choices. Don’t choose what you ALWAYS choose because you feel without choice.
And try. Just try this year not to blame other people for what you choose to do. Sometimes in life people hurt us. That is without question. Sometimes we are sick or in a hospital or need a friend and don’t have anyone to call. Those things not only hurt, they actually suck. But they exist. Remember that no matter where you are right now, you still have a choice. Even if the choice is to roll down the hall of the hospital in your wide open, crummy quality robe and tell all the people who have to work that day happy holidays, or the people who are sicker than you and never have visitors that they aren’t alone…you can still do it.
Sometimes we make healthy choices in life and sometimes we don’t. All of us. But just this once, let’s call this OPPOSITE YEAR. Whatever you normally do that you don’t want to do, do the opposite..and see how it unfolds.
3. When All Else Fails; Find Something Funny
Humor exists for a reason. It makes us….well…laugh. All great humor, if you think of it, comes from either discomfort or uneasiness or pain. That is what comics do; they make us laugh based on all of our own awkwardness, challenges and woes. It helps. It makes us feel less alone and less afraid. It binds us together as flawed, relentlessly mixed up human beings.
If you don’t want to laugh, that is fine; but then refer to suggestion two for figuring out other ways to be different this year. But if you are open to it and just feel so darn sad you don’t know what to do with yourself; then watch something funny — something that YOU think is funny, read a comedy book or blog or meme. Make a list of all your most embarrassing moments, but not the ones that made you shameful or scared, the ones that made you laugh out loud (you know, for me, one of those is the time I opened a door to a coffee shop in New Orleans and lost track of the door myself and gave my OWN self a black eye opening a door…it hurt, but boy did it create a lot of levity and laughter for myself and my friends..it was ridiculous; absurd even..and also hysterically funny). Make a list of things you have ever laughed at in your life and think about those. Anything to make you smile; but try it. It works.
If you DO have a friend to talk to or a family to connect with; ask them to tell you about funny things in their lives, things that make them laugh. Go to a comedy show. Or don’t. But try something that makes you smile in a way that makes sense…not just because YOU ARE SUPPOSED to be positive…that doesn’t work…it is too much pressure and makes you feel ashamed when you can’t do it perfectly…just find something funny…heck, maybe you even still read the paper and the comics…those are good, too.
No rules, whatever works. And if you feel particularly alone and sad, try to find someone else who feels worse than you and make them laugh too.
If you are feeling isolated and alone this holiday (or any day of the year), I can help. Please refer to this blog for a free, 30-minute consultation. Contact me today!