Let's face it, the holidays can be hard for some of us who are dealing with ambiguous loss or even just the holiday blues. For many of us the holidays can all too often represent a painful period of loss that seems overwhelming to handle, even more so if everyone else is singing Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells around us. For those of us who get the holiday blues, there are some good pro-active measures you can take in order to ensure your blues or feelings of loss do not overwhelm you during this holiday season.
The first thing you can do is take care of yourself physically and mentally. If you're a person prone to laying in bed during the holidays as part of your coping with grief, it's a better idea to at least take two or three walks a week. Exercise is a natural mood elevator and our body produces endorphins even during moderate amounts of activity that can help us function on a more balanced level psychologically.
The second thing you can do is make sure that when you are feeling isolated, you find a way to connect with other people in real-time not just on Facebook, and the other social media platforms. A virtual hug does not do much for our physical being, but a real hug has been shown in study after study to elevate our mood and even reduce our blood pressure. One of the coping mechanisms for the holiday blues, is actually to be around people more than less. That doesn't mean you have to attend every single holiday party and pretend that you're feeling jolly, it simply means that you find a way to get outside your house and connect with a friend, church member, or even volunteer so that you feel less isolated and prone to melancholy.
The third thing you can do is to volunteer your time to do those in need. It's amazing what power two hours of standing in line serving soup to the homeless can do to remind you of the gifts you have, as well as the stability you have that others do not. Especially during this difficult economic period recognizing that others are in need, can often truly make us "count our blessings" and feel uplifted by all we do have.
Finally, during the holidays there can be natural grief even associated with the loss of the family structure through divorce, and this type of grief can be just as powerful as the loss of a loved one through death. If you are experiencing this grief and it's your first holiday without your kids or without your family intact, give yourself tender care and realize that it is not the time to just simply "power through" what you are feeling. Share your grief with someone, make some commitments to take care of yourself in the new year including joining a grief or divorce recovery group. If you'll focus on the future for just a bit of the time during the holidays - it will provide you a gift of hope beyond what you are feeling at the present.
Happy, safe and peaceful holidays to you. And I'll be writing more in the coming days about loss, and how to deal with it more effectively.