It's hard to believe the holiday season is nearly upon us. It can be a wonderful time of year. It can be a stressful time of year. Usually, the holidays are a mix of both. The holidays are a kind of magnifying glass, bringing both the sad things in our lives and the good things into sharper focus.
We gather with family and remember the joy, the laughs, the losses, the sadness, and the hurt. Despite what we see on TV, families are never perfect, and holidays can be a stark reminder of that. Or maybe we don't have family, and the holidays magnify loneliness and lack of connection.
Now is the time to start proactively planning for how we will navigate the holiday season. The more prepared we are the better able we'll be to stay well and enjoy ourselves.
Here are some basic tips:
First, remember you are in charge of how much time you spend with family. If family dysfunction is high right now, make plans for extra support from friends.
Secondly, we can't choose the family we are born into, but we can choose who we hang out with over the holidays. Make a decision to spend at least some time with folks that are fun to be with and who value you.
Third, if you don't have family or are lonely over the holidays, consider giving to others. Volunteer to serve a Thanksgiving meal at the local shelter and then go back the next week to help out again. Help wrap gifts for kids in need. Write letters to our troops overseas. Get involved in community activities and services. Giving to others is a great antidote to loneliness.
Fourth, cultivate gratitude for the small joys in our lives. Gratitude is a great antidote for stressful feelings and thoughts.
Fifth, it's okay to have a cry during the holidays. It's okay to connect with sadness and grief and longing for loved ones who've passed on.
Sixth, if sobriety is important, get to a few extra meetings and be in regular touch with a sponsor over the holiday season.
Seventh, remember that holidays last a specific number of hours. If all else fails, just hang in there and it will be over soon.
Finally, try to get in touch with the reason for the season. No matter what your faith tradition, the holidays are a celebration of the light emerging out of darkness.
Light emerges from the darkness. No matter how tough things are, there is hope. Those of us who are living recovery know that because we have lived it. A diagnosis of mental illness is not the end. We can recover and live wonderful lives. Light a candle this holiday and pass the flame of recovery on to others.