Tis the season to be jolly! Or Nah? While many enjoy the glitz and glamour of the holiday season, the holiday season can be a painful reminder of life’s pangs: poor social relationships, poor financial health, the loss of loved ones and the inevitability of another year.
Some, have to wrestle with if what they are experiencing is brought on by the holidays or something more serious.
African Americans, who are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites, it is important to take a moment to pause to consider what lies beyond the lights and the parties.
While the thought of reading yet another list of self-care tips may seem discouraging, consider the alternative. Do you trudge through another holiday season with empty smiles or reclaim this season for your personal growth and betterment? I vote reclamation!
Here are a few helpful action steps you can take to not only surviving but thriving this holiday season:
The mind and body are amazing, they have all these conversations about what works and what doesn’t work without us always being conscious.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to elevate your mood and reduce anxiety. Physical activity releases endorphins elevating your mood, while also helping to calm the brain’s fight or flight response system. Get a jump on all those “new year new body” goals by getting active now.
If possible, consider a brisk 45 minute walk each day. Better yet, dance that pain away, sweat it out with a YouTube workout or grab a friend and take a class.
Play, while relegated to the 12 and under population, is actually for everybody. Play has the potential to bring about immense pleasure while also strengthening poise and understanding.
No matter your physical capabilities, we can all engage in play of some sort.
Give A Little Get a Little
While it may seem counterintuitive to consider giving to someone else when you are feeling low, it may be just what you need.
Seeding into others can produce feelings of satisfaction and purpose. While volunteering at your local food bank or shelter is a great way to give back, there are likely people in your life and immediate vicinity who would benefit from some extra support.
Giving with your money is great, but giving of your time can produce the long-term fulfillment we are all seeking. Consider checking in on someone, offering a warm meal or helping someone around the house.
This is a great time to cultivate or re-cultivate your relationships with the elders in your life who are often forgotten about.
Everything we don’t have, aren’t doing and should have done can be heavy load to bare. But what about your flowers? What about the things in your life that are going well, the relationships that have lasted, and the skills you do possess?
Being intentional about gratitude offer us a moment to recognize the small but mighty beauty that surrounds us daily. Consider starting a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, reflect on something you are grateful for.
Even if it’s just the basic recognition that there is breath in your body and you are alive, lean into that which you are grateful for.
Double Down On You
Date yourself, treat yourself and love on you in only the ways you can. Instead of externalizing your feelings, go inward. Shower yourself with praise until you actually start to believe it.
Escort yourself to that concert, holiday gathering or vacation getaway. Buy your own flowers and go all out on a meal for one. Even if you have someone to enjoy these things with, there is nothing like remembering your first relationship, to self.
While it may be easier to highlight all the ways you have failed yourself, it takes more work to love on you. The results of this type of hard work has the potential to change your life well beyond the holidays.
Creativity is a divine genius we sometimes forget to tap into, especially if you don’t consider yourself an artist. The truth is, we are all creative beings, and there are millions of ways to engage our creative sides without trying to be the next Basquiat. There is coloring, painting, collaging, cooking, writing, and drawing.
But there is also repurposing, organizing for space optimization, decorating, and indulging the possibility of ideas that you ruled out. Like any muscle, the creative muscle will atrophy if we don’t exercise it and grows with regular attention.
Strengthening your creative muscle can open you up to seeing things in a new way, recognizing possibility where there was once a wall. Like with exercise, creating something brings about feelings of fulfillment which often last longer than feelings of happiness.
Go Inward With Therapy
If your holiday blues has extended into your spring and summer it may be time to reexamine the root of your blues. If depression symptoms like sadness; lethargy; loss of appetite; anxiety; lack of interest in pleasurable activities; and mood swings persist for multiple days for more than two weeks, there may be case for a deeper dive.
It should be noted, clinical depression can make many of the above considerations almost impossible. If this is your reality, consider therapy.
Therapy offers clients a safe space to make that deep dive, find meaning, and learn techniques for long term self care. Maybe this year instead of going it alone, you seek out a qualified therapist to help you put down your burden.
Whatever you choose to do, choose you by being intentional.
None of the advice provided in this article is a substitute for a relationship with a trained clinician. If you or someone you know me be experiencing depression, please seek out help.
Shesheena A. Bray is Boston native who has taken up roots in the City of Brotherly Love. She earned her M.S.Ed in mental health counseling from The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 2016. In 2017, Shesheena started Going Inward Wellness, LLC where she offers individual counseling, psychotherapy and wellness support.
For those in the Philadelphia area, consider Going Inward Wellness as your first stop in therapy.