December 2023 Spotlight
December 2023 Spotlight
December is a busy month and can be impacted by many competing forces, especially with the holiday season approaching. Reduced daylight can have a negative effect on our mood. Unpleasant memories from the past can easily flood back during the season when you are thinking and seeing family. Strained relationships with family and friends can create awkward situations. There is pressure to see everyone and do everything and internal pressure on us to be ‘perfect’. We face high calorie food and drink around every corner, there is a tendency to spend too much money, and often too much to do with too little time. No wonder people tend to feel more stressed this time of year!
How do we make the holiday season a bit easier?
Acknowledge and express your emotions. It’s empowering to say how you feel. Vulnerable sure, who wants to admit they are struggling? But that vulnerability is full of courage and self-knowing; recognizing and accepting you are having a hard time is powerful because there can be action behind it. Also, it creates space for the human experience that we are not perfect, it is not possible to be happy all the time, and that we often need the help of others to get through a difficult time.
Brainstorm creative ways to celebrate and connect with others. This is often hard to do when we’re wound up and preoccupied with responsibilities. Try to go for a walk or practice a mindfulness activity like sitting outside in the sunshine for a few minutes to decompress. Some of our best ideas come when there is more space in our minds to grow them. Mindfulness is a great way to clear one’s head and find more balance. Clear your mind, let go of thoughts without judgement and be.
Distract yourself and have some FUN. We can get overwhelmed with the to-do-list that comes with the holidays. Take a break from the monotony of doing and incorporate some fun. Maybe you can put on some music or an engaging podcast while you’re tasking? Or there might be some things on your list you can delegate or even take off so you have more room for play.
Focus on the positive and hold hope for the future. The holidays will not last forever. There will be days when it will not feel so difficult, and future holidays when things do not feel so heavy. Practicing gratitude can help to identify the good things in life, no matter how small. Notice the good. Some folks find it helpful to write down a few things they are grateful for either at the beginning of the day or near the end, to remind themselves of what they have, rather than focus on deficits, perceived or real. When you look back at this list it often brings comfort, joy, appreciation and perspective.
We often have expectations of how the holidays should be, and when they don’t turn out the way we wanted, we can get stuck in our disappointment. We must learn to let go of what we do not have control over and be realistic with our expectations. Accept what we cannot change and appreciate what we have.
Here are some practical tips to consider over the next month:
Get organized ahead of time. Grab a calendar or pad of paper and start marking out what dates need to be noted, and what tasks you can schedule in advance.
Prioritize me time. Don’t forget about yourself! Your own needs are often the first ones to go when you’ve got a lot to do. But that is a sure way of burning out! Carving out time for yourself, whether it be 20 minutes a day or a couple hours every few days, do what works for you. And that time can be spent how you want. Read. Sit. Daydream. Exercise. Watch a show. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that fills you up.
Get outdoors. Fresh air and regular doses of vitamin D from the sunshine are great ways to naturally boost your energy and mood.
Clarify family expectations. Family can be one of our greatest sources of joy and love, but also stress and anxiety. Have conversations in advance about what you want this holiday season and practice the art of compromise. The more honest and respectful you are in these conversations the more successful the outcome will be. And remember, you can’t make everyone happy.
Moderation. Try to find some balance over the holidays, whether with the rich food you may enjoy, beverages, substances, late nights, spending and overall energy. A little bit can go a long way. Reflect on when you have found yourself feeling less than great after indulging – what is your limit? What is your “enough” so that you enjoy yourself but not at the expense of your overall health and wellbeing. Pay attention to how you feel over the holidays so you can adjust. Do you need more rest? Are you moving your body enough? Do you need to drink more water or get some fruit and veggies into your daily intake? These are foundational pieces that support overall wellness.
Spending holidays alone?
Banish myths about how the holidays should be. There is something to be said about valuing tradition but there is also something beautiful about carving out your own traditions and creating new ways of celebrating. There is no one way to enjoy the holidays! Find some traditions that are just for you; watch a movie you love, order/make your favourite food, go to an event that you’ve been wanting to attend or get lost in a craft or hobby you enjoy.
Make it a time to be good to yourself. Being your number one priority is essential all year round! We emphasize the importance of self-compassion; turning kindness, understanding, acceptance and love inward toward one’s self. The more you invest in yourself, the stronger your resiliency, capacity to endure and ability respond to others will be. There is a ripple effect as compassion is felt from one person to another.
Let go of the idea that the holidays are about being with others. While we are inundated with mainstream society’s expectation to surround yourself with family and friends over the holidays, some people do not want to, or do not have people in their lives to spend time with. This can result in feelings of shame, guilt or worthlessness. These internalized messages only reinforce negative thinking, difficult emotions, and unhelpful coping behaviours. Spending holidays alone can be liberating. You can do what you want without having to cater to the wants of others. You can enjoy peace and quiet without disruption. It may be that you would rather be with your own company or with a chosen few, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As difficult as it may be, try not to compare your experience with others.
Get through it the best you can! There is no right way to deal with holidays but certainly, there are ways to make it a bit less painful or stressful. Do what you can to get through it. We are all human, doing the best we can each day. Give yourself concessions, compassion, and authentic understanding that holidays can be difficult, you are getting through with what you’ve got to work with.
These tips are available to you throughout the year, not just during the holiday season. Consider incorporating some of the recommendations in your daily practice and see if any of them help to lighten the load.
If you, or a colleague are struggling with mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out to a Wellness Specialist.
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