On top of all the tasks we usually do every day, there are gifts to buy and wrap, parties to attend (or give), hors d'eouvres to make, perhaps a Christmas tree to buy or put together, decorations to get out of storage, sort out and put up, electric candle lights to replace when they burn out, school or church activities to attend with our children — you know what I mean. It can be stressful and exhausting.
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On top of the increased demands on our time and the associated stress, the holidays can be very tough emotionally for many people. There are a lot of expectations about the season. We should feel happy, joyful, warm, loving and loved at this time of year. It is a time for family gatherings, loved ones, reconnection with our religious or spiritual upbringing.
But what if we don't have a family, or are estranged from our family of origin? What if we have lost the ones we love? What if we are alone? What if we are widowed, divorced or looking for that special someone? Then the holidays can be an intensely lonely time, a time of sadness, regret, questioning. Feelings of sadness or loneliness that may already have been present are magnified many times over during this time.
Thus, many people are over-stressed and/or lonely or sad instead of happy and joyful. So what can help when this happens?
1. First, know that you are not alone. Many people feel this way. Resist the tendency to think that there is something wrong with you.
2. When you catch yourself feeling depressed or sorry for yourself, change your thoughts to more positive thoughts. For example, if you are feeling lonely and thinking how alone you are, think about the people you know or have known. Remember how it felt to be with loved ones in the past.
Talk kindly to someone in the grocery line who is clearly stressed out and impatient with their child. Make a list of all the things you can be grateful for. Call someone you haven't talked to lately and just let them know you are thinking about them. Go online and find a chat room about a subject that interests you. Get some exercise.
3. Find a place to volunteer on the holiday most important to you. Soup kitchens and churches often put on big meals on holidays and can always use your help. Offer to babysit for a young mother and feel the joy the child is experiencing. You will discover you feel much better when you can help others. Try it and see.
4. Find a church, synagogue, temple or other house of worship and go to their services. Go to the one you usually attend. Or if you haven't been lately, find one whose rituals feel familiar and trigger good childhood memories. Or, find one completely different from any you have ever attended and just enjoy noticing the differences and the uniqueness. Smile and say hello to the other members of the congregation. If you are not religious, simply reconnect with spirit in your own way. Meditate and give thanks for all your blessings. Bundle up and go for a walk outside.
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