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For many people, the winter holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and connection with loved ones. There is an expectation – from society, the media and those around us – of constant cheer around the holidays. For many people, though, that’s not their reality. The holidays can also be a very difficult and emotionally charged time, for many, many reasons.

somber-woman-at-windowThe holidays portray an ideal of what family and happiness are supposed to look like. This false sense of reality is a disconnect for many of us, who don’t fit the mold, or the narrow definitions of family and happiness. Many of us feel like we don’t belong – be it with our families we grew up with, or the traditional customs and norms that are touted during this time of year. Feeling excluded because your faith tradition is different from the norm in your town or school, or not seeing yourself reflected in mainstream holidays, can be a painful reminder of feeling “othered,” or like you don’t belong.

Stress and anxiety can also come from being with family members who you’d rather not be with, complicated or traumatic experiences with religion, feeling pressure to buy gifts and related financial worries, feeling overwhelmed by social situations, or reminders of memories of loved ones who have passed away.

The holidays can also intensify feelings of loneliness. Struggles with depression and anxiety can be magnified during the holidays. If you struggle with seasonal depression, the holidays can be particularly challenging. These feelings are completely valid, and you’re not alone.

Here are some ideas that can help ease the holiday stress:

  • Spend time with people who make you feel safe, loved, and accepted, and limit time with people who are not healthy for you to be around.
  • Try to maintain your usual schedule, including eating, sleeping, and being active.
  • Carve out time to do activities that bring you joy and peace.
  • Give yourself permission to say no; no to holiday parties and to seeing people you’d rather not.
  • Remember that most families have complicated relationships, and that that no family is perfect.
  • If you’re hosting a party, extend a special invitation to folks you know who are spending the holidays alone, or who are going through a hard time.
  • Ensure that your gatherings are as inclusive and welcoming as possible – think about accessibility, music, and food, and refrain from using unnatural fragrances for those with chemical sensitivities.
  • Practice gratitude. Expressing appreciation creates positive energy and can improve mood.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering lowers stress, boosts self-esteem, and can even ease depression.
  • If you enjoy giving gifts, sending out holiday cards, or other ritual activities, then go for it. But don’t feel compelled to do anything that isn’t enjoyable to you about the holidays.

Remember to experience the season your own way. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season.

If you are thinking about suicide, or worried about someone who might be, call 1-877-870-HOPE (4673), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are outside of Massachusetts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

 

Written By:


Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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