Holiday times can be very triggering, I know that it is for me. It does not evoke that ear to ear smile, that warm feeling in your belly, a time to look forward to all year. In fact, most holidays I would have much rather be by myself in my own good company. " Its the most wonderful time of the year"....yeah right!
It is not that I have worst family in the world, because I do not...it is just an overwhelming bombardment of what the holidays are "supposed" to look like vs the reality of what they really are. Social media does not help this because it is advertised, intentionally and unintentionally, everywhere.
You see all of these families gathered in love and happiness. You see and feel the togetherness. You witness the laughter, the joy, the sense of community and belonging. You even see the awesome presents, the proposals, the newborns with the elders, the sense of celebration.
As spiritual as you may claim to be, when you read these stories and see these images, that comparison of what you have and do not have seems to boil over. It makes you a bit sad that you cannot seem to enjoy the holidays like most people do. I know that it frustrates me quite a bit and I tend to stay off social media for the most part on these days.
When you do not have the support and loving-kindness that most people seem to have during the holidays, it tends to get depressing. When your family does not act like a family, the holidays are not a time of year that is special on a deeper level.This does not add to the fact that Seasonal Affective Disorder aka Seasonal Depression is at its highest during the winter months (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.
Over the past few years, I have been redefining what the holiday season means to me and how I navigate it to make sure that my mental health is prioritized.
First thing first.
1. It is okay if your family, situation, or perception of the holidays does not resemble that of a post card or this picture here.
In fact, it is okay if you do not favor this holiday time at all. For the past few years, I beat myself up about not having enough money to get my loved ones any presents. It sucked even more because we aren't that tight knit of a family where someone's presence can compensate for a lack of gifts. There were no gifts. There was no sense of family. It just sucked. Do your best to not to feel guilty if it is not in your budget to travel to see family or get them presents.
2. Do not force yourself to stay in places, situations, or near people that are triggering to you. This holds true if your mini family reunion happens to include someone who has assaulted or triggered you in the past. You have the right to refuse an invitation. Last year I chose to spend thanksgiving away from my family in a Korean spa center in saunas and massage rooms. For New Years, I was invited to a party that my very recent ex was throwing. I felt so sick being around him, I chose to go home, be by myself, and fall asleep at 8pm...that was what my soul needed. Trust yourself if you feel that you need to excuse yourself and remove yourself from any unpleasant environments.
3. Create your own tradition with your chosen family, on whatever day you like. You can incorporate elements that resonated with you from different holidays. For example, you can pull the traditions of making and sharing food, exchanging gifts, spending time together with your favorite people, in the middle of july. You do not have to wait until the end of the year. Create your own holiday and run with it!
4. You DO have the right to be happy during this time. You have the right to keep your mental health in good standing. Do what you have to do (as long as it does not harm yourself or others).Do what feels right to you. If you need to take 5 hot baths and drink hot tea while you're in the tub on Thanksgiving, burn incense and meditate all day on Christmas, or do nonstop yoga on New Years, go for it. If you want to binge watch a show on Netflix or sing Black Christmas songs from Thanksgiving eve straight until the new year, it is all up to you darling! If you want to order pizza, Chinese food, or that tikka masala for thanksgiving and christmas dinner, yup, do what you do! Whatever makes you feel good, what ever your heart and soul are telling you...do that.
5. It is okay to be by yourself (especially for my fellow introverts). It is okay to be with people besides immediate family. It is okay to go on a vacation and get as far away from your family as possible. It is also okay to actually want to be near your family. Basically, allow yourself to feel how you feel.
6. Communicate your feelings and intentions in regards to the holidays to others. It might not be the easiest thing, and people do not always understand (or want to understand), but speak your truth and set your boundaries! Your mental health counts on it! Stand firm in you beliefs even if it completely contradicts the traditions that your family has upheld for decades. It is okay to break the mold and go against the stream. You never know who may actually agree or resonate with you if you do not speak up!
7. Be around people that you DO love & that you know love you! That may mean getting adopted by a friend or partner's family for the holiday time. That might mean just being with your best friend or your dog (or cat). Be around the beings that make your heart smile.
8. Keep yourself warm and drink lots of tea! Keep yourself warm despite how you feel about the next few weeks. Keep yourself hydrated. Nourish your body with the nutrients from plants that will make your mind happy (like peppermint, got kola, passionflower, herbs of this sort). Tea is always good for the soul!
That is about it.
If you have any other tips to survive the holidays without melting or spontaneously combusting, please do share!