Five ways to be strong and resilient during the Holiday season

We all seem to be impacted by the holidays. Turn on the TV, go to the grocery store or go on the internet. Holiday images and messages are screaming at you!!!

 The Holiday season can be joyous and wonderful for some, and scary and anxiety-ridden for others.  It can be a time when our emotions are elated beyond belief because we are with family that we feel secure with and love. It can also be a raw, commercially driven time for others who are not sure how they are going to cope. For some, it will be an empty, lonely time if they have lost a loved one previously shared the holidays with, or they have a family member deployed, in hospital, living overseas or they are estranged from family members.

Not all families are what we think of as “traditional families”. We have blended families, estranged families, single parent families, gay and lesbian families, extended families and the list could go on.

The beautiful thing for the holidays is that the family you choose to be with can be whoever you want them to be, if your biological family is not around for whatever reason. That is the sort of holiday my family of three people experience most years with only us and a few cousins in Australia still around. While it is sad, it is not a spoiler for the holidays season as I see it. We are strong and resilient about our situation and make the most of it.

To be strong and resilient over the holiday season means you can “bounce back” from any stress or distress you are experiencing as a result of the holidays. You can do it. It is often the stress or distress related to being alone or not part of the stereotypical Happy Family picture in the Publix supermarket advertisement. There are many triggers that can lead you towards sinking into the depths of perturbity.  (This means to be unsettled or upset: thrown into confusion according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online)

Here are five things you can do to make your Holiday fun and joyous for yourself:

1: Take a realistic look at what you can expect from the holiday season.

If it is something you wish to participate in, consider what follows. If not, be you and do what pleases you most.

We all feel inundated at the moment with holiday messages in many countries. Social media and television portray an idealize view of what should the holiday season should be like for people. While it’s beautiful and helps businesses to increase their sales at this festive time, it isn’t realistic for everyone. It is pleasing for many people and that is fine. It just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For those who live in the northern hemisphere, it gives some perspective of what to look forward to but for anyone born in another culture or living in the southern hemisphere, it doesn’t capture our true-life experiences.

I was born in Australia and lived there for most of my childhood and young adult life. While we celebrate Christmas holidays, it was done so differently from what we know of celebration in the USA and Europe. Did you know Australia has a very hot Christmas because it is in the southern hemisphere so people eat prawns, sit in front of the AC or go to the beach. Snow, reindeers and Santa are replaced by sunshine, kangaroos dressed up to pull a sleigh, and Santa in swim trunks with a large felt hat that has corks hanging from it to swat away the blow flies.

Many people who incarcerated or homeless are grateful for a hot meal on key holidays. Those of mixed or different faiths and nationalities may be grateful for a day off from work. Some people see it as a day to celebrate their Christian faith at their church. Others see it as a day to give back and go to a community kitchen and feed families that are less fortunate. There are countless ways you can spend your holiday. Think of how you can spend yours’. Make it memorable.

Some of us may want to eat paella instead of turkey and the trimmings. This is what my husband, son and I are going to do this year. We have had fish‘n’chips in a prior year.

2: Set yourself the goal of enjoying the holidays.

Making an effort to enjoy the holiday season is up to you. You can have all of the family and friends around you yet you are the person who will need to take responsibility for putting your heart and soul into make something out of it for yourself. It can be joyous and fun if you want it to be. You can be alone, or working in a 24 hour operation like a hospital or factory, or with your pets, or helping others who are less fortunate. Whatever the situation, own it and put heart into making it enjoyable. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s OK.

Don’t let the hype get to you. You may have a different set of joyous occasions that are meaningful to you and it is fine to choose to enjoy them, and let these holidays pass you by.

3: Work out what you would like to do.

If you want to be a part of any holiday season, it is a great time to really look at what you like and what you don’t like to do around the holidays. What activities, or lack thereof, really make you feel good during this time?

I have decorated my yard with so many lights and decorations that I am hoping they can be seen from space. Every night I go outside and walk to the street corner, just so I can enjoy our lights and those of our neighbors. Our tree is also up with lights and ornaments all over it. There may not be many presents but our home feels holiday-ish.

Cooking a meal that you really enjoy is something you may like to think about. Even if you can’t cook very well like me. I can follow a recipe so can usually “wing it” by doing this. Yes, I am very good at following instructions because I choose to be. Luckily my husband is a good cook!

4: Who would you like to spend it with?

If you want to spend it alone streaming Hallmark Christmas movies and eating your favorite meal in your pajamas, that’s great.

What about spending it doing something with friends? We used to have an Orphans Christmas and an Orphans Thanksgiving for all of the Australians living in Atlanta, GA. because most of us were not able to go home for the Holidays. We all used to bring a dish to share to whoever had volunteered to host at their home, and we would spend hours together eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company.

5: Accept responsibility for your own emotional well-being during the holiday season and think about what is going to provide you with opportunity and real meaning at this time of the year.

  • Think about how you can find opportunity for growth during what may have previously been a stressful time for you. If you do what you have done in the past, and it made you feel sad, do something different this year.
  • Draw on at least one close and secure relationship that you have at this time. If you have very few, consider what you can do to help others at this time. There are opportunities in most communities to participate in helping other people who are experiencing stress, trauma and adversity Helping others takes the focus away from our own concerns at this time, and provides us with a way of giving back to others who may be in greater need than we are.
  • If you have no clear solution as to what you could do for the holidays, consider what your faith, or groups you know are doing. Use your moral courage and ask if you can be part of what it is. Look at groups that are advertised in your area and call them to see what they are doing. There are Meet Up groups and other interest groups. You are not alone.
  • During and after the holidays, use your self-talk to stay calm and comfort yourself. It is all going to be OK. The holiday season will come and go. You will get through it and the New Year is around the corner. We all have certain years where it seems we are not going to get through the holidays. You are in good company.