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Is This Holiday Season Leaving You Feeling Stressed, Somber, or Sad?

‘Tis the season to celebrate and we often think of the holidays as being filled with loved ones, gatherings, presents and celebrations, however for many this is a season of stress and sadness.

Many people have lost loved ones due to Covid or other illness, accidents or disease. Many people have loved ones in faraway places with no ability to connect in person during this time, like military families for example.

Some people feel so overwhelmed with stress that enjoying the holidays just feels like an overwhelming task that is comprised of too many extra things to do piled on top of an already long laundry list of to do’s.

It can feel difficult to feel sunny when you’re feeling blue. If this describes you, are you destined to just “get through” the holidays as though you were stranded on a tropical island just trying to survive?

The answer is, well it depends. It depends on you. If you are someone that recognizes you feel stressed, sad or overwhelmed and wants to feel differently, then yes, there are things you can do to feel better, manage both your stress and sadness more effectively, and maybe even find a bit of joy along the way.

First you have to want a different outcome. Even if you don’t know how you’ll get there, that’s ok. There are many paths. You just need to decide that you don’t want to spend all of your precious days being stuck in overwhelming sadness or stress.

Here’s some ideas for you to just begin to break out of some of these patterns of thinking you have to do it all, that there’s no time for you, or that you just need to press on despite how you might be feeling.

  1. Acknowledge your Feelings. Feelings are not right or wrong, good or bad. They simply give us clues about what is going on for us if we are willing to pay attention. They inform us about what we ought to be paying attention to. Experiencing a wide range of emotion is part of being fully human though obviously some emotions are more welcomed than others. Sometimes just naming our sadness or stress can help.

  2. Notice your Body’s Clues. What we think and feel will also register in our body. So start tuning inwardly to notice. Are you feeling tired? Do your muscles often feel tense? Do you notice that your jaw feels tight, your hands are clenched or your shoulders are elevated? Do you find that you either hold your breath or breathe shallow too often? These are all signs that your body is giving you that say “pay attention.”

  3. Set aside Short Bursts of Time for Yourself. You may feel like you have to hold it all together because you have a job, or kids or other family obligations and you don’t have time to just sit with your feelings. However, planning and scheduling time to shut out the rest of the world and take a healthy time out for yourself to think, pray, cry, journal or meditate is one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself and those around you.

  4. Move your body. Making time for some kind of fitness activity even in 15 minute increments is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental and emotional health, your mood and attitude. Movement increases circulation which brings better blood flow to your brain. That translates into a better functioning brain that can think more clearly and deal more effectively with life’s curveballs.

  5. Lean into safe people. Who is that person or people that know you, love you and are able to consistently care for your heart? Rather than shutting them out, or “not having time for them” make the time by scheduling an outing, a facetime call or connecting in some way on a daily/ weekly basis. We all need support and encouragement during challenging times. None of us gets better in a vacuum.

  6. Get plenty of ZZZZzzz’s. Skimping on sleep when you are feeling sad or stressed out is a really bad idea. Less than 6 hours of sleep reduces blood flow to the brain which makes everything else you need to do harder, including managing yourself. This is the time to establish good bedtime routines, including same time to bed / wake up time. Your body and brain will thank you.

  7. Make time to Journal. Research has shown that journaling, especially when we are going through challenging times can be very therapeutic. Instead of tossing and turning all night with thoughts racing about what you have to do the next day, or feelings you are struggling with, writing them down can be very cathartic and beneficial.

  8. Make Appointments with Yourself for Thinking / Feeling. For those of you in particular who suffer with anxiety or rumination (that almost always accompanies anxiety), schedule a time to stop the busyness, identify your thoughts and feelings, question those thoughts for accuracy, and allow yourself to just sit with whatever you are feeling. When anxious or ruminating thoughts occur at other times, simply remind yourself that it is not yet “the time” to ponder them over. This can keep you from ruminating, and stressing all day as you chew on thoughts that do not serve you well.

  9. Schedule selfcare minutes, hours or outings. Since the free time you are hoping for won’t magically show up on your door step, you will have to choose to say no to something or someone so that you can say yes to your own self care. Whether you schedule a 30 minute soak in a hot lavender bath, an hour massage at your local spa, or a fun day hike with a friend, what matters is that you schedule this kind of time into your days/ weeks. You are the only one who can show yourself that you are worth caring for. Scheduling these things makes it much more likely they will happen!

  10. Find what you can to celebrate. Maybe you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, or an important relationship. Find the nugget that brings you joy. Maybe that person gave you a special gift at one point. Bring it out, use it and keep it close if it brings you joy. Find the small things you are grateful for; focus and celebrate them.

It is important to note- if you are suffering and struggling with mental or emotional issues that are interfering with your ability to enjoy life, such as anxiety, depression or other brain health issues, please seek professional mental health help. Reach out to us at Live Well Kitsap by emailing at info@livewellkitsap.com. We are happy to refer you to someone who can help.

You only have this one life to live. Make each day count. Letting go of the things that in the end really don’t matter can free up time to engage in one of the above suggestions. Notice what it feels like to let go and do something for yourself that feels healthy, refreshing, rejuvenating or fun. Stop telling yourself the story that you don’t have time! Question that thought every time and begin to ask a different question. What might I let go of in order to say yes to some selfcare or something else that really matters?

Show yourself some love this holiday season and experience one of the greatest gifts of all.

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