The holidays are a-coming and for most of us, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. We can feel the celebration happening everywhere we go. But sadly, the love is not felt by everyone. Whether it’s dealing with loss, getting over an addiction, being new in town, helping to recover post-divorce or caring for a senior citizen, here are some smart ways to help make the holidays a bit easier to navigate.
Beat Holiday Stress: How to Make the Holidays Happy Even When You’re Not
There are so many reasons that you may be sad this year. No matter what’s going on for you, there’s a way to ease the pain.
For the newly divorced or widowed:
Loss is a sad, life-changing event at any time of the year. However, it tends to be harder when everyone around you is joyful and giddy with holiday cheer. Don’t be so hard on yourself by trying to minimize your pain. Allow yourself to grieve, keeping in mind that sadness is a natural part of the life cycle.
You may find comfort by reaching out to family and friends or joining a grief or support group. Surrounding yourself with loved ones or others going through the same experience may help you feel less lonely. Volunteering may also get the spotlight off of you. Helping those less fortunate can give you a sense of love and pride, while immersing yourself in the true spirit of the holidays, in the hopes of lifting your own.
Most of all, be good to yourself. Take a long bath, read a good book, get a massage. Do something that you love to do and makes you feel good. Neglecting yourself will only make you feel worse.
For those who are new in town:
Connect with some of your friends on Facebook and find out what’s happening around town. Also scan local websites that feature events, such as concerts, new restaurants and even local Christmas markets.
To meet new friends check out a meetup group. It’s a local community of people that hosts meetups, which are face to face meetings that happen in real life between members and organizers. They can range from anything from a new in town group to yoga groups, restaurant groups, and more. There is a meetup for every hobby. Just google it for info.
For those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Seasonal Affect Disorder is so common, especially after the clocks fall back. Try a light box, which mimics outdoor light, to life your spirits. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.
You can buy a light box over the counter, or your doctor may recommend a specific one. Light boxes, available from stores and Internet retailers, come in different shapes and sizes and have varied features. They also produce different types and intensities of light. Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective, but they aren’t approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s important to understand your options.
For those suffering from Depression:
There’s an App for that. More people commit suicide during the holidays than at any other time of the year. Unfortunately for people who are under the care of a psychologist, it is very likely their treatment will be interrupted over the holidays due to vacationing doctors. Thankfully, there are many excellent apps for Android and Smart Phones. Some top apps are: Health Through Breath, Secret of Happiness, Depression CBT Self Help Guide, NIH Depression Info, and Fitness Builder.
For the caretaker of a senior citizen:
Don’t forget that elderly people tire easily and can be vulnerable to over-stimulation. Limit the number of activities for these people and schedule time for a nap if you are traveling or take them home when they become exhausted. Offer to cook for them at your home or help to cook at theirs. While older people may no longer be self-sufficient in the kitchen, there is no reason why they can’t help. In fact, including them in the meal preparation is a great way for them to feel involved in the holidays, without putting them in any danger.
And if you are gathering in a place that is unfamiliar, make sure to remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present a problem to one who has balance problems or difficulty walking.
For the recovering alcoholic:
Recovering from addiction is hard. Period. But it’s harder when holiday festivities are filled with friends and family drinking everything from eggnog to champagne. If you’re hosting, buy some non-alcoholic wine (yes, that’s a thing, and a great one). Also, be prepared for what you may face before going to a party. Keep your lines ready, such as “I’m choosing not to drink today” or “I’m the designated driver.” Those should get people off your back.
Traveling often takes you to places where drinking can be encouraged, such as airports, planes and hotel bars. Prepare yourself ahead of time by reminding yourself over and over that these settings may make you uncomfortable, but you don’t have a drink to make yourself feel more comfortable. If you have to, make yourself a note in your phone and read it to yourself if you’re starting to feel vulnerable.
While this year may not be the happiest and easiest of holidays, remind yourself that next year will be better. Looking forward, not back, is the best way to embrace the future on a positive note.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a NYC based licensed neuropsychologist and the founder and clinical director of the Comprehend the Mind Institutes in Manhattan and Queens. She specializes in providing neuropsychological, educational and developmental evaluations in her practice.