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Grief Relief: 6 Tips if You Struggle with the Holiday Season

*Singing* It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiime of the yeeeeear! Right…?

The holiday season is usually marked as a “magical” time filled with joy, love, shopping and quality time with family and friends. But in reality, it can also become a catalyst for negativity, causing countless people to become overwhelmed, experience heightened anxiety, and struggle with depression. Whether you’re dealing with financial hardships, tough family dynamics or single-season woes, stress really can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Confession: For the past few years, I’ve personally struggled with the holiday season. There’s a part of me that even feels a bit guilty for saying this, because I really do have so much to be grateful for. But if I’m being honest, I usually experience an emotional tug-of-war this time of year.

I’m pulled back and forth between sadness for my dreams and desires not yet actualized, and getting sucked into the infectiousness of holiday cheer. I often find myself experiencing flashbacks of memories from “better days,” longing for former family traditions that have faded and really missing loved ones who’ve gained their wings. Long story short: if you feel this way, you’re not alone. I see you.

The mind is a battlefield, so the key is to be intentional about acknowledging and combating these feelings. There are few practices and tips I’ve tried to help me manage and fight the holiday blues. Now, I’m sharing them with you:

Tap In (To Your Feelings)

It’s okay to not feel okay. Give yourself permission to actually feel your feelings—and by all means, cry if you need to. There’s actually power in acknowledging and naming your emotions, as well as allowing yourself the necessary space and time to sit with them. Sometimes, I try to give myself a certain amount of time in the day to feel sad. Sounds crazy, right? However, this approach allows me to not only practice self-compassion, but encourages me to redirect my focus and not spend an exorbitant amount of time wallowing in any one emotion.

Schedule Time for Self-Care

The holiday season is usually packed with seemingly unlimited to-dos, obligations and a full social calendar. Through the flurry of responsibilities, it’s super easy to look up and realize that you haven’t had any time for you. The hustle and bustle can also wreak havoc on our sleep patterns, diets and daily routines. If you are a “yes man,” “yes woman” or recovering people-pleaser, this tip is for you. Blocking time out for yourself and establishing boundaries is essential. I get it; it can be hard, especially if you wear many hats and have people depending on you. But you know what they say: you can’t pour from an empty cup. I’m here to tell you that you deserve to indulge in activities that you enjoy. You can start by setting aside scheduled time each day, or reserve 1 day a week to recharge and relax in whatever way that means for you.

Practice Gratitude

Comparison is the thief of joy, but many of us can’t seem to break the habit. #guilty. We ready know that social media fills up with Hallmark-movie-worthy highlights, engagements, pregnancy announcements, etc. But guess what? It’s their time, and that’s OKAY! Your assignment here is just to stay in place and trust His pace. So, while your blessings are still on the way, try adopting an attitude of gratitude. This will help you reflect on your own blessings rather than allowing external factors to magnify what you don’t have (yet!). I encourage you to create a good old-fashioned gratitude list. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Regardless of how your season is going, there are surely at least 5 things (big or small) you can and should be grateful for in this moment. Start there! Refer back to this list whenever you start to feel down, even when you don’t feel like it.

Focus on the Present

Calling all overthinkers! Whether you’re someone who revisits the past or obsesses about the future, I know one thing to be true: we can’t time travel. All we have is now, so it’s best to enjoy the gift of the present. Try not to allow yourself to get wrapped up in social media and/or things you simply can’t change. Mulling over anything other than the now can zap your energy; and honestly, it’s just a waste of time. Instead, get out and go for a walk. Play with a pet or make a delicious meal. You can even reach out to let someone know how much you care about and appreciate them. Whatever you do, seize the moment. Tomorrow is not promised.

Do Something Nice for Someone or Volunteer

It’s no secret that it feels good to help others. The good news is that the holiday season highlights more opportunities for us to do so, both within our personal relationships and on a community level. I personally feel most fulfilled when I’m able to help and/or be of service to someone else. It can be as simple as offering a listening ear, or taking part in kind gestures like paying for the drive-thru order behind me. Organizations also typically ramp up their search for volunteers that can help man local toy drives, soup kitchens, coat drives, etc. Try giving some love through service or a random act of kindness. Not only will you be doing good—as a result of your actions, you’ll feel good. And if you implement some of the tips above, you’ll be better equipped to give and serve from a full heart, mind and spirit.

Identify Your Soothing Squad

Surround yourself with people who can help uplift and support you through your struggle season. This is a great way to cope with difficult emotions and grief, especially when you can’t see the forest for the trees. Identifying people in your social circle that you can trust and be vulnerable with is critical. Try to prioritize connections that are good for your mental health. Communicate with people who can help not only reaffirm you by magnifying your strengths, but stand in the gap for you during this time.

Hopefully these tips help you find your way this season. Also, don't be afraid to get professional help if necessary. That's okay too.

Love & Hugs,

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