by Carrie Baatz
The holidays are wonderful, and they can be hard.
If you’re someone like me who deals with a mental health challenges, the holidays can bring up a mixed bag of emotions. Maybe your family isn’t happy and together, and the holidays are a painful reminder. Between the busyness of all the parties, gifts or services, maybe you are starting to feel tired or stressed.
If this is a hard season for you, you are not alone. In the midst of all that you do to care for others, I want to encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do to make myself feel loved?”
We all need the reminder that our own self is worthy of our time, care and attention. The good news is that you have a unique power to give yourself love, because you know you better than anyone else.
So this holiday, give yourself a gift.
The gift of simplicity
I enjoy the holidays more than I used to. One reason is that I decided to become choosy about the obligations I commit to. I am an introvert, and while I love people, a lot of social time drains me after a while. When my schedule gets too full, I start to feel pressured and stressed. So, now I don’t go to every event. I save my spare time for the things I really want to do.
Give yourself permission to do less of the things that stress you out, whether that’s parties, cooking, traveling or something else. Trim the fat off your calendar, so to speak. The more you say no to the things that stress you out, the more space you will have for the things you love.
The gift of happiness
One key to happiness is permission. Spend time connecting with the people you want to see. This year, instead of going to obligatory events, I started having holiday dinners with my friends throughout November and December. These dinners make me happy, because they are relaxed, quality time with the people I love.
What makes you happy? Give yourself permission to do more of those things. For me, that’s writing, dancing, reading, listening to music, and going to the theatre.
As much as we nurture happiness, the belief that we should be happy all the time is a myth. After a rough couple of years with the holiday season, I learned that I needed to give myself permission to feel whatever emotion that I was experiencing. This includes disagreeable emotions like sadness, anxiety and anger. It’s relieving to know that you accept yourself, however you are feeling.
The gift of meaning
I grew up learning popular traditions and narratives around Christmas. As I got older, I started to re-examine my beliefs, and I realized that certain patterns in nature are full of meaning for me. December 21 is the longest night of the year. Throughout history, nights have been a picture of suffering. At some point we all go through these nights, where we feel lost and alone. After every night, the sun rises as a symbol of new life.
Something special happens every year on December 21. This darkest night has been named the Winter Solstice because it marks the beginning a new cycle. From this night on, gradually, the daylight becomes longer and longer every day. To me, this natural pattern is a symbol of hope, and it reminds me to reach for the light.
For many people, the holidays are special because of the traditions and narratives we keep alive. Where do you find meaning during this time of year?
The gift of connection
As I wrote earlier, you are not alone if you find the holidays to be hard. Sometimes, there is nothing sweeter than connecting with people who can relate to you. Give yourself the gift of connection this holiday by reaching out to someone.
If you have a mental health condition or any other disability that makes the holidays more difficult, a little extra support can be comforting. Connect with our Peer and Support Groups at The Independence Center. You can call 719-471-8181 to learn more.