Hello Reader. Do holidays equal a time of hope for you? If you often find yourself busy, stressed, or lonely over the holidays, this post is for you!
There are loads of statistics supporting that the holiday season (November-January) is the most stressful time of the year. Between family life, work life, obligatory holiday events, revisiting old wounds, financial stretch, and travel it’s no wonder!
We can find ways to stay healthy and to keep hope burning during these busy, stressful, and lonely times. Why hope? Well the holiday season is about hope being realized after long waiting periods; we just often miss it, or don’t truly enjoy it.
The next few items might be helpful for some tactical objectives with the goal of keeping hope burning.
(disclaimer from your friendly counselor – Don’t do holidays alone.
If you are experiencing deep grief, ongoing depression, high anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or substance abuse, please call a professional counselor today so you can get in before the holiday really gets humming. If you are experiencing thoughts or dreams of self-harm or harming others, please call 9-1-1 or 512-472-HELP today. )
- Hope burns with others and burns-out in isolation – to truly keep hope burning takes a whole-person approach because you are a whole person with relational, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical needs. Take care to take time with others who are healthy. If it’s long work-hours, lots of planning, or past hurt getting in the way of your relational needs, be proactive and intentional this year. Involve others to help you with your goal of being with others.
- Realistic Expectations – I don’t know if it’s our own imaginations, others posts, or movies or what but we tend to blow out of proportion the perfection we expect over the holidays. So this year be kind to yourself and expect realistically what could happen and plan realistically with those things in your control and responsibility to see it come to pass.
- Eggnog and Eggheads – Lay off the eggnog to help set yourself up for great times now and healthy times later. Depression and anxiety love, love sugar because the sugar creates brain chemicals that feel like joy or hope, but they are flaky fakes. Don’t let them drive your intake. Lay off the eggnog and the sugar to truly be hope-filled. For those Eggheads that just don’t know how to interact or who aren’t paying attention to the social cues, learn talking points to deal with the awkward holiday chit-chat or repeated questions. Talking points are great!
- Kick out Christmas Past Ghosts – If there was a past experience or a repeat behavior that occurred every holiday, plan a new way this year. Find ways to avoid the repeat behaviors. If there was a past experience and the pain returns every year; this year find a healthy way to release the pain, heal the hurt, and calm the anxiety about it returning. If the pain or habit involves a person, find a healthy way to deal with them safely, or schedule time with a professional counselor to help you with a strategy.
- Compare same to same – (beware of social media and external appearances being your baseline) It’s easy to look on PInterest for the perfect holiday meal, décor, recipe, outfit or family picture but it will only work if your skill is the same as the designer. Same with social media, remember we all tend to post our highlights.
- Do it well, but not perfectly – This one can catch me up and steal my hopefulness. It’s ok to do a task well and it not be perfect. The gift will be just as great if it’s not photo-worthy. The outfit for that holiday party will shine just as bright if you feel more confident than the slightly off-color item or last-season shoes.
- Do what you have energy and expenses to do – Depending on your location, there might be more events or experiences to do than time and money. Or it might be you want to provide your loved ones with the “best Christmas and NYE ever”. Either way remember the Gift of Limits – we all have limits and we maintain hope when we maintain our limits of energy and expenses.
- Take time for you – Whatever your lifestage, do what can be done to take time for you. That means everything from quality meals, rest, play, sleep, and time away. Whether that’s sitting by the fire with the phone and tv remote abandoned on the table, or walking around the block while someone else watches the kids, or scheduling a guys or girls time, do what you can to take care of you.
- Recall the Reason for the Season – The reason for the season is a powerful way to increase hope. Not sure where to start with the God becoming man story? Look up in the book of Luke, Matthew, or pick up a book on the Christmas Story from LifeWay or Mardel books, or read through the 15 songs found on the book of Psalms 120-135. If you are in a season of waiting for the thing you hope for to come, these two will help bring hope that while hope deferred can make us sick, hope delivered can make us healed.
- Dash through the snow, or in TX, the leaves – Get exercise! Holidays are often filled with static times so be sure to plan for plenty of exercise!
- Lend Santa a Hand – volunteer to help someone, homeless shelters get all the buzz around the holidays so call first before heading down. Consider these other much needed options too: your neighborhood, or the one next to you; Walk the dogs and pet the cats at the animal shelter; Garden the community garden, Deliver some much needed meals, etc.
- Remember the Wonderful of your Life – Gratitude goes a long way to stoking hope so take time to remember the things and people that are wonderful in your life now. Make lists and share them!
- Create Photo Opps and Share Pics with Apps – photo opps don’t have to be perfect but make sure they happen. I’m notorious for forgetting to take photos because I have a fairly photographic memory. I’m so grateful for those around me who remember to take photos and also who share them. There are several free Apps where you can post photos and easily share to a select group – we use Photo Circle for family and mission trips.
Reader, I hope these suggestions will help you keep hope burning even during the busy, stressful, or lonely holiday season.
Connect with me and let me know how it goes!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva