So much of what we hear and see in this season is reminiscent of joy and cheer. It can almost feel like an expectation. But what if we just can’t?
This season can actually be challenging to get through at all, even more so with a cheerful mood. It reminds of us of who we don’t have and what we didn’t get that we needed.
Let me explain.
The first, simple answer to this, which is true for so many people is that this time of year reminds us of people we loved that we have lost. Lost to death. Divorce. Ruptured relationships. It reminds of that we don’t have these people in our lives… and that’s sad. This is grief. We grieve what we needed from those relationships.
I’ve worked with people who struggle to wrap their minds around this. “I don’t understand why I feel so depressed… it’s not like I would spent the holiday with them anyway.” Yes, this is so hard to understand. This is how we struggle with “what we didn’t get.” The lost relationship and the loss of a person. It reminds us that they aren’t here.. and won’t ever be… or won’t be at least this year. This is grief. And this makes so much sense. It makes sense that people feel so sad right now.
There is another explanation.
Our bodies are these amazing data centers. They remember so much more than recalling our favorite (or least favorite) childhood birthdays. They store information down to the cell… constantly keeping tabs on what has happened to us… or not happened. This is an amazing thing and can be very positive.
Buuutt… it can also have some challenges. So, this time of year our bodies remember there may have been things that happened to us… or not… and that can be sad.
It’s like our body is saying:
“While the world is rejoicing, I am missing…
- The nurturance of a loving parent.
- A place to belong.
- A safe body.
- Safe people who will not violate me.
- Someone who hears me. Sees me.”
Honestly, this list could go on and on. And this feels sad. In a different kind of way, it’s grief. It means crying, feeling down or depressed, feeling anxious. All of these responses are our bodies way of saying, “I’m overwhelmed, grieving. Please take care of me.”
Take care of yourself.
First, please know that you are not alone. Many people, even ones who are smiling in public, are struggling right now. This is very common.
Second, there are some ways that you can take care of yourself.
- Give yourself permission to feel the way you do. It won’t last forever. It’s ok to take the expectation off yourself on how you feel this time of year.
- Get outside to absorb some sunshine. Go for a walk or a hike. Get your body moving. In this way, it’s like you are saying back to your body, “It’s ok to feel and do know I’m going to take care of you still.” Movement and sunshine can be very helpful in not getting stuck or sinking too low.
- Give yourself space… but not too much. The balance between taking space to feel and not too much will be important. With too much, we start to isolate which can spiral our feeling to a really bad place. Think about setting a time limit on letting yourself have a day to feel down, knowing that the next day you’ve got to re-connect with life.
- Know your limit on holiday events. Be mindful of not overbooking yourself. Try to engage in some events but it’s ok to know your capacity on these too. Think about how long is too long and plan on sticking to that time frame. When that company party comes up and you know an hour is your max, give yourself permission to leave when an hour is up.
- Keep tabs on your triggers. Being around family can be very triggering. Know your limit on spending time with family and give yourself permission to limit your time with them or take a break.
- Find someone to connect with that understands you and can show up for you this year.
- Get in with your therapist or start looking for a therapist you can connect with. This is great way to care for yourself.
I know this time of year can be very challenging.
At Dawn we understand and we are here to help. If you have additional questions about how to care for yourself this season, catch one of your Q&A hours to better understand mental health through the holidays.