As you welcome Holiday Sadness, it transforms
Holiday sadness hits everyone at some point during the winter and that’s a good thing. Here’s how to welcome it for a better season. Because of all the media hype and pumped expectation, it can feel like you’ve missed the boat if you aren’t cheerful throughout the holiday season. But winter is a time of darkness, introspection, resting, and composting. The winter months naturally pull us inward to feel the “blue” emotion – sadness. We do best slowing down and doing less during this naturally low-energy part of the cycle – which makes possible the higher energy of the light-filled summer.
The darker months around the winter solstice see animals slow ingtheir metabolisms and/or hibernating; plants dropping their leaves and conserving energy. The Northern hemisphere gets less sunlight. We humans are meant to rest more, do less, and “compost” the events and feelings of the previous seasons. Your mind will always have you do more, if it can. That’s its nature.
If you consult your body – take deep, belly breaths and feel inside – it will tell you to slow down and rest more in the winter. The culture and the media will tell you to go out and shop more; give more; party hearty; eat rich and expensive food…. The resulting pull in opposite directions can leave you feeling damned if you do, and damned if you don’t – rest or do a lot. Take this as permission to balance the extra doing with rest and quiet and – above all – feel what’s going on inside. Allowing time to feel sadness, grief, and loneliness to move through you can clear space for the joyful moments that can come this season as well. Just as ocean waves have peaks and troughs, emotional peaks and valleys are natural and necessary, and healthy to allow.
I have yet to meet an adult who has not suffered some kind of loss in life, and traditional holidays that gather family groups – like Christmas or Hanukkah – underscore who is missing from the table. “Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction and loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry and bright,” says the Huffington Post. Add in the challenges of trips to visit family, extra holiday guests, or the feeling of being lonely, isolated or out-of-sync, and you have a set-up for bad feelings and stress. Cut your feelings some slack. Let yourself cry. Give yourself a half day to rest in bed without guilt – before your body gets sick and forces the issue.
This will be my first holiday season without my kids around me. My daughter and I had a good cry over the phone, just allowing pent-up feelings to release. In the past week I’ve (literally) held several friends who just needed a good cry. Afterward, they were breathing more freely, with looser shoulders and neck muscles and a renewed feeling of “it’s ok.” If you have extra space/energy, see if y
Holiday Loneliness and feeling Out-of-Sync
How do you handle it when it feels like “everyone” is busy and happy except you? Reach out. Open your hand and heart. Let a happy-seeming person know how you’re feeling. They may have extra energy/attention to give or invite you to join in their festivity. Or that may give them an opening to express how tired or sad they feel inside as well.
Look around for someone else who may not seem bouncy and offer your ear, time, or help. Share a meal. If you feel at all lacking, you will feel better sharing what you have with someone else – even if it’s a smile. No matter what’s in your pocket, you have time and attention to give another person. Look for your resources, recognize the resources of those around you, and share them. If you really have no one around you, share a smile with yourself in a mirror in compassion for your situation.
If your beliefs don’t sync with those around you, see if you can find common threads and focus on those. Humans naturally share resources when food and light are scarce to survive. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you may be available to cover work for someone who does. Take the time not decorating and shopping to rest and reflect. See that as the blessing of being in sync with natural rhythms rather than a problem.
While Jesus’ exact birthday is not known, early Christian leaders chose December 25 to mark his birth to overwrite the ancient celebration when sunlight appears to be returning to the earth. This is cause to celebrate – to bring hope and light into the cold and relative darkness – but not cause to blow precious resources overdoing it. Drinking and eating to excess, partying heavily, and letting go of your self-care routines are what you should NOT be doing at this time of year. When your body and mind pull in different directions, sadness, depression, even anger-at-self can be the result.
You don’t have to have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to feel low-energy or “blue.” But if you notice that your mood swings low around the same time each year, it’s worth taking a look at the symptoms to see if you need additional support. Approaching traumatic anniversaries can heighten the natural tendency for your mood to dip in the darker months.
5 Tips for Allowing Sadness and all your Feelings
- Set realistic expectations of yourself, of others. For many of us, that means downshifting as you accommodate end-of-the year deadlines, added family visits, and adjusting your work schedule. You need time to reflect and digest feelings instead of always pushing forward. Energetic backlog feels terrible; while flow of emotions feels freeing.
- Give yourself time to feel. Schedule “empty” time; watch movies or read books that help you open to your sad or low feelings; spend time walking in nature (with a friend, a pet, or solo) and let the rhythm of your motion process feelings.
- Keep self-care near the top of your to-do list. make sure you get your regular exercise, ample sleep, and aim to eat what you know maintains your body well. Letting self-care slip now can affect your sleep, overall productivity, and how you get along with your family and colleagues as everyone. If you overindulge, forgive yourself, but don’t keep doing it.
- Give your body slower, rhythmic exercise whenever possible. In keeping with the energetic down-shift, walk more, run less. Move your body, but don’t push it too hard now. Gentle, rhythmic and meditative are the keys to balance and easy flow this season.
- Welcome sadness. Winter is naturally a time to mourn the loss of absent loved-ones, unrealized dreams, and misses opportunities. That is the “compost” that causes new life to bloom later. As you process your feelings, it becomes the fertilizer for blessings to come your way.
Welcoming and feeling your holiday sadness, loneliness and grief will clear the way for joy and, ultimately, become the fertilizer for new growth.
If you need help with specific feelings or want a great gift for someone who needs emotional support, get a copy of Issues in Your Tissues and spread the love!
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