The older I get, the more I realize what a mix of blessing and curse the holidays can be.
On one hand, there's a sense of magic in the air... People are inclined to generously donate food and gifts. There are parties and gatherings at every turn. It's easy to imagine that the snow is sparkling because of Christmas.
But there's a shadow side happening at the same time. For the lonely and sad, the holidays are an occasion to feel even more isolated than usual. For the stressed and sick, the holidays ramp up the pressure. For those who are struggling financially, it's easy to feel even more marginalized.
And there are plenty of folks who just feel blue, but can't pinpoint why.
So how do you navigate this time with a little more ease, grace and holiday spirit? And how can you be more supportive of those around you who are experiencing their own ups and downs?
1. First, take notice.
How are you feeling? What's going on in your life? Slow down and give yourself time and space to notice how you feel (which might be very different than how others expect you to feel). Real life doesn't stop just because everyone around you seems to be celebrating.
Recognize that it's as normal to feel blue during this time of year as at any other time. If there's someone in your life who's sad or struggling, acknowledge their sadness and give a listening ear.
You don't have to "fix" your friend, solve their problems, or give advice to be helpful. In fact, if you simply listen - no advice, no judgment -- you'll be giving them a priceless gift: that of being seen, heard, and understood. This alone does wonders for the soul.
2. Feel what you feel.
How many times do we just soldier on despite feeling like our heart just isn't there? This is an opportunity to slow down and pay attention to what's really happening within.
Get really clear about what's bothering you. Let yourself feel into it, while at the same time observing yourself from a distance. This can help you process how you feel without getting stuck or drowning in your feelings.
3. Find a "people balance."
For many introverts (myself included), the tendency is to cocoon and hibernate when loneliness sets in. We want our comforts, and that includes alone time. But too much alone time quickly leads to isolation; the longer we spend in our own company, the harder it gets to reach out and connect with other people.
For extroverts, it's easy to adopt a pattern of constant motion and activity to avoid feeling anything. The second you slow down, you feel, and that can be painful. But what happens when you wear yourself out with activity? You end up exhausted by the time those feelings creep into your awareness, and they feel even bigger and meaner than they otherwise would have.
For both introverts and extroverts, the key is to recognize your own tendency, and plan ahead for a little more or less social time. Do it when you're rested, well nourished, and able to think clearly.
4. Take extra-good care.
Self-care is sorely devalued these days... As much as we say we need it and love having some extra TLC, we barely even give ourselves enough hours of sleep at night to feel well-rested and fully present the next day.
Like the stock market, the best way to successfully navigate the rush of the holidays is to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Instead of "Buy low, sell high," adopt the motto: "Slow down when it's busy, get busy when life slows down."
Jumping on the crazy-busy bandwagon sets you up for exhaustion, frustration, rushing, mistakes, and miscommunication.... Certainly not the way to experience the joyful, loving spirit of the holidays!
But slow yourself down when everyone else is going at top speed, and you give yourself room to make better choices. It's easier to spend your time more selectively, with people who lift you up. You have more patience and energy to handle unexpected situations and family emergencies. You feel more rested, in control, and grounded. Just because most people don't associate the holiday season with peacefulness doesn't mean you can't!
5. Be honest if you're not feeling better.
Of course if your melancholy goes beyond simple holiday blues, be sure to find a counselor, therapist, or other professional who can support you properly. Don't put off getting the help you need and deserve.
Above all, remember that to be human means bumping up against other humans, asking for what you need, and helping other people to get what they need, too... not just today, but every day.
PS- If it takes you a while to get back into the swing of life and business after the holidays, please join me for a free teleclass on December 30th, 2014 where you'll learn how to stop spinning your wheels, trust your intuition, and kick off the new year with a fresh, new perspective. Sign up at http://tinyurl.com/o6ryme8 even if you can't join the call live (the recording will be sent to you).
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.