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Managing the Holiday Blues: 5 Strategies for Coping

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Here’s the truth: The holidays have felt hard for me for as long as I can remember. As an only child of divorce, I always felt like everyone was gathering together in warm, cozy houses, drinking hot apple cider, and being merry without me. Cue the violins!

holiday blues

Even though I have my own family and traditions now, I find that every year, as soon as December rolls around, I feel a wave of melancholy and an inexplicable feeling of deep loneliness. As I write this, I am in isolation after getting a breakthrough case of Covid-19 from a friend. I’m feeling incredibly thankful that I was able to get a booster so my symptoms are mild, but the last few days have been a whirlwind of various disappointments and cancelled parties and plans, including our beloved annual latke party.

The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration but also a time of heightened pressures, unrealistic expectations, and all sorts of emotional and personal triggers. So, here are my holiday survival tips for anyone else out there who finds themselves feeling a little less than jolly this time of year:

Talk About It

Most people don’t walk around broadcasting that they’re having a hard time, but I’ve seen time and time again how vulnerability leads to connection. Let the people you love know if you are going through a hard time so they can commiserate and/or support you. Most people’s actual lives are not accurately depicted in their glossy holiday cards or curated Instagram posts, so if you’re brave enough to be real about how you’re feeling, others are sure to follow.

Create Space for Grief

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a tough one for me.  I am happiest when zipping from thing to thing, but I’ve also learned that you can’t outrun grief, so it helps to carve out a little space for it. My father’s birthday was January 2nd, and the anniversary of his death follows in February, so the winter months always stir up a lot of complicated emotions for me. I’ve found it helpful to anticipate the grief, and make sure I carve out some dedicated time to write, walk, think, and process. When my brother is in town we plan a day to visit the cemetery together followed by a hike and a nice lunch. I’ll also schedule a therapy or coaching session close to anniversaries or holidays because knowing that I have a safe container for my grief feels much better than running from or resisting it.

Create More of What You Want

I spent years feeling sorry for myself, and wasting time on the same old story, before I figured out that adults get to create what they want. Better late than never! Instead of dwelling on the idea that I grew up without a big family, and don’t have any fun holiday traditions to celebrate, I started creating my own sweet celebrations. Next year, I’m planning to start a new tradition where we take a special trip to somewhere we’ve never been over the holidays. Traditionally we’ve never traveled because travel rates are so inflated and winter weather can be challenging, but even driving to explore a new city for a few days seems like a great alternative to feeling restless at home. Consider what feels important to you over the holidays and take small steps to create more of what you want.

Do More Good

There has been all sorts of research about the power of generosity and giving back. One of the most effective ways I know to stop a pity party dead in its tracks is to focus on making a positive contribution. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Donate something nice to someone in need. Pay for somebody’s coffee at Starbucks. Little things make a big difference and there is literally no downside to giving back.

Rejoice in the Little Things

There are always bright spots to be found, even during the most challenging of times. If you look for them they’re everywhere. Today from my bed, I wrote down a few: The sound of my girls’ laughter downstairs. Flannel sheets. Fresh flowers on the nightstand. A cool breeze from the open window. Soup delivery from a friend. Netflix.

Sending all of you love this holiday season, whether you are jolly or sad or a bit of both, and wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. Xx

Photography Credit: June Home Supply

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20 comments on “Managing the Holiday Blues: 5 Strategies for Coping

  1. Thank you. I also have a tough time during the holidays. I am a senior living alone. I am thankful for my Cavanese puppy who will be 1 in January who sits on my lap and watchs tv with me..
    Usually I have a knitting project on hand but this year I am having challenges with my hands and health..so I am just glad to stroke the soft fur of my Poppy.

  2. Thank you for your post, Shira! I have been dealing with new aches and pains and medical issues over the last couple of weeks along with the worry and fear that accompany these problems. My days have been filled with juggling multiple doctor appointments and tests as well as chiropractic visits to manage new back pain while still working full time in my practice and being mom, wife, etc.! Now, there is the prospect of dealing surgically with kidney stones. I am usually super active and energetic, but all of the worry about health is zapping some of the fun out of this season. Additionally, my home town was hit very hard by Hurricane Ida, so we are still dealing with home repairs and not-quite-normal living in the midst of the holidays. So, I appreciate your post and the realization that not every moment of the holidays is always filled with cheer! I was forgetting to take the time to recognize the difficulties and experience the feelings associated with them!! I need to work on my programming about this season! While I am so grateful for the many blessings in my life and the excitement of this season, it is a wake-up call to see that slowing down a bit to acknowledge feelings that are not so cheerful is ok!!

  3. Thank you for sharing, so many can relate! I live in the Bay Area and volunteer with Refugee Resettlement Village. We receive our client’s referrals from Jewish Family Sevices. We are expecting 300 more arrivals from Kabul in the coming months. As you stated, it feels so good to give back! Have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy your precious family❤️

  4. Sending you all the love + a speedy recovery! I appreciate your voice in this community so so much. Look at you trying to help others when you yourself are going thru it. I found this v helpful + TY for it.🤍🤍🤍XO

  5. Thank you for all the positivity that you manage to dig up, Shira! I have been having all sorts of issues with my medical care, and I feel, while pushing 80, very insecure. I grew up with a doctor who came to our house and hit us with a shot of penicillin if we had strep throat, NO ARGUMENTS! Now I cannot even get an Rx refilled. And I also no longer have people/old friends, sisters, etc., that I can call to complain to. I just feel stuck all by myself with my ” ‘plaints”! I don’t usually succumb to these kinds of feelings, but tonight I have, for some reason! So, everybody, CHECK on those agile, young old timers like me! We might not be in as great a shape as you think we are! We have been strong and stoic, but we are getting tired. Check on us. Check on anybody close to 80 years, in my opinion. And now, though I’m not feeling that great myself, I’m going to call a neighborhood friend who is a tad older and who didn’t look so good last time I saw her . . .

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the reminder to check on the people we love, especially our elders. Hang in there. ❤️

  6. Thankyou so much this has helped me so much. I will definitely try n follow all these suggestions. I am grieving at the moment as my ex partner was found dead 10 weeks ago. Lots of very, very mixed emotions.

    1. So glad to hear the post was helpful and so very sorry to hear about your loss. Sending you lots of love. ❤️

  7. Shira, thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us. I am certain that you have helped many with these thoughtful words. Fellow only child here, though not of divorced parents. I lost both of my parents when in my 30s and they in their late 50s. I found the holiday season difficult since my early 20s. I am 51 and finally realize that my holiday season can look the way I wish. I am truly in the spirit this year and very much looking forward to time with my family and am enjoying contributing to others in ways that I am able.

    Sending you feel better wishes and warm hug from the Toronto, Ontario area. Happy holidays to you and your beautiful family.

  8. Read this just when I needed it. Thanks for sharing these recommendations Shira.

    After reading your book I was very inspired to minimalize my life. I started with one room, my art studio, and I loved the result. Now we are just about to move and I am wishing that I had started earlier. Thankfully I have your tips on how to help let go a declutter as I pack up. Trying to focus on the brightness of the future of starting fresh in a new house with a new framework for what I allow into my home and life. Looking forward to reaping the benefits of a paired down and more connected life.

    1. So glad that my suggestions were helpful, love that the book is helping you move towards a more connected life and a fresh start. XX

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