The holiday blues are a real phenomenon, with half of us feeling some stress and fatigue if not mild depression. The holiday blues are felt by people as a result of the holiday season. Yet, some people are entering the holiday season already feeling stressed, anxious, sad, grieving, depressed, etc. How do I enjoy the holidays while helping people I know to cope with their holiday blues?
“If one were to devise an experimental set of circumstances which would test the integrity of an individual’s mood control, one would invent the year-end holiday season.” Jonathan Himmelhoch, Psychiatrist, Western Psychiatric Institute, and Clinic
The holiday blues are real, and according to at least one study, about half of us experience the holiday blues (the survey reached 786 adults, 18 years or older Fall of 2006). But some people suffer the holiday blues because they entered the holiday season already feeling sad, depressed, anxious, etc. The seemingly joyous time of the year enhances their depression and anxiety.
I don’t think there is any other time of the year, which evokes such strong emotions as does this time of the year. For some of us, we are excited, joyous, filled with wonder and anticipation! We visit family and friends, host parties and gatherings, spreading joy everywhere we go! But yet some of us feel quite the opposite this time of the year. I think of those who recently lost a loved one, suffering from physical or mental health issues, separated from loved ones, and even estranged from the family. There are those whose past experience of the holidays wasn’t pleasant, and those who feel trapped in life situations.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While these song lyrics may be accurate for some, they’re not necessarily right for everyone. I’m not writing this to bring down the mood, but what I am saying is that we need to be mindful of people around us who may be suffering while we celebrate. Some of my current clients are dreading these next few weeks, while other clients are looking forward to a new beginning!
Regardless of how we may feel about the holidays themselves, this time of the year finds many of us feeling the burden for perfection. As joyous as we may be, the expectations for a “Rockwell Christmas” haunt the best of us. While we still have our day-to-day tasks to complete, we must also decorate, buy gifts, and attend social functions. These expectations, especially if we feel obligated, can cause stress and anxiety even in those who enjoy this time of the year. Now imagine the stress and anxiety felt by those who are merely trying to cope with life, let alone the added expectation of the season.
This time of the year, we tend to focus more of our attention on helping others and on giving back. Therefore, what can we do to either help or give to someone who is suffering during this holiday season?
- Create an awareness within yourself and your children that not everyone feels joyous this time of the year. This awareness is not meant to place a burden on us, but as a recognition for the reality of others.
- Create an environment where all people feel open to sharing their feelings honestly. While attending or planning, parties and gatherings don’t encourage everyone to participate, be respectful of those who are having a difficult time participating. Try to plan activities that would allow a person to participate in the degree in which they feel comfortable.
- Be mindful that your expectations of what makes up a holiday celebration may not be the expectations of others. Allow yourself the flexibility to be open to the traditions of others as well as to how others may be feeling. For example, if you are organizing the family dinner, take into account any family members who have had a challenging year. Allow them space or the time to speak, or not speak, if they wish. Be aware that their showing up may have been a difficult task in and of itself.
- If you know someone struggling to cope with a mental illness, or emotionally struggling, be a supportive friend. Allow time in your holiday schedule to be present to them, even if words aren’t spoken. Never underestimate the positive effect and healing quality of presence. If possible and appropriate, encourage them to join you at small gatherings and surround them with people who have their best interests at heart. Isolation, especially during the holidays, is not healthy.
- Encourage them to do activities focused on taking care of themselves and their emotional health, regardless of the expectations placed upon them by themselves or others. Help them to understand that It doesn’t make you a selfish person when you prioritize yourself, it is actually essential toward your well-being.
- Take time from the busyness of this season to be an active listener to those who wish to share their feelings. Encouraging and allowing others to share how they feel may be the most helpful thing you can do for them. If they are reluctant to share, lovingly help them by letting them know that you will listen without judgment regardless of what they wish to talk about and share.
During this holiday season, as many of us join together with our families and friends, let’s be grateful and joyous in our traditions and fellowship. But let’s not forget those who are emotionally suffering at this time of the year. Being respectful, understanding, and lovingly present is the best holiday gift a person can receive.
Confidence is not something we’re born with, it’s something we learn as we mature. My personal story is one of a shy boy transformed into a confident man. How did I do it? How can you do it? Let’s talk about how I eventually learned to embrace my confidence.
“Confidence isn’t walking into a room with your nose in the air, thinking you are better than everyone else; it’s walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone in the first place.” -Anonymous
The other day I was asked, “Have you always had this confidence?” I was somewhat taken aback by the question as I don’t typically think of myself as having confidence. My current life activities consist of family, life coaching, writing, teaching at a university and college, hosting a podcast, giving lectures, and speaking at conferences. I keep myself active, but I enjoy all that I do. Is my enjoyment in what I do the confidence people see in me?
Confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities and talents. Yet, this definition presupposes that I have an awareness of my skills and talents. I feel this is the reason why many people lack confidence; they don’t recognize their own abilities and, therefore, wrongly assume they are unable or incapable of performing a task. Pull the word, confidence, apart, and you’ll find the Latin words of “con” and “fide.” When translated, we get “with trust/faith.”
Trusting in oneself, which is what confidence describes, means I have to believe in myself and my message. What message, you ask. Our beliefs, morals, and values are the messages we send to others. Your level of trust in yourself with your message equates to your level of confidence. How much do you believe about yourself to be true? Is the message you’re sending different from your belief about self?
Trusting in oneself, or, having confidence, also involves a sense and personal understnading of one’s conviction. How strongly you believe in yourself and your message is this conviction. A firm conviction, coupled with a desire to spread your message, is the confidence for which many desire.
Conviction, historically, evolves from the word for “opinion.” Our conviction is our opinion on self. The Latin parts of the word are again “con,” or with, and “vicere,” meaning to win or conquer. Since “con” is part of this word, then with what do we win or conquer? The word literally means “to win with.”
The answer, as I see it, is confidence. We win with confidence. We have beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, our convictions. These convictions, or beliefs, are what we trust in our confidence. Therefore, to “win,” we need a conviction and the confidence to make it happen.
While growing up, I was extremely shy and unaware of my abilities and talents. This lack of self-awareness, coupled with my shyness, reinforced in me a belief that I wasn’t capable of much in the way of outward achievement. As a child, and even though my early adulthood, I enjoyed the solitary pursuits of reading, studying, and writing. Sure, I had friends with whom I enjoyed doing things, but my friends were few and not among what was known as the” in-crowd.” For me and my shyness, they were “safe.”
A lack of confidence is typically coupled with a person’s self-esteem or sense of self-worth. In my experience, though, that assumption wasn’t right. Although I lacked insight into my gifts and talents, I did feel positive about myself. I enjoyed my hobbies and the people I chose to be close to; ultimately, life was good. My sense of self-worth was high, while at the same time, my confidence was low.
How can this be? In my early life, it meant that I did well in school, for when I was given a task of importance to complete or asked to give a speech, my mind would immediately jump to the thought “Me?! I don’t have the skill to do this? There have to be people better at this than me!” At the time, I failed to realize that I was asked because someone else saw the talent and ability in me. I was unable to take into account the perspective of the asker because I failed to recognize my own confidence. If I couldn’t see it in myself, I was never going to accept that someone else saw what I could not.
So, what changed in me, given my history of lack of confidence and shyness, that now I can speak to large crowds, teach university classes, and train groups of peers? There’s no one event, moment, or “aha experience,” which made all the difference. For me, it was a progressive shift, and practicing meditation, where I became more self-aware of my giftedness as well as my weaknesses. It’s in accepting both aspects of oneself that lead to one’s sense of confidence.
Here are some reflections I have learned in my adult years, which have impacted my ability to have conviction and confidence:
- I’m not responsible for another’s happiness. I am responsible for my feelings and my actions toward others. This helps my confidence in that I don’t seek nor need the approval of others to know that I am good at what I do. The constructive opinions of family and close friends I respect but needing to be liked by everyone is no longer a goal of mine.
- Not knowing is ok. Early in my career, I stifled myself as I felt that if I didn’t know everything, there was to know in my field than I was a fraud. I now recognize how wrong I was. Still, it was in me eventually realizing that even the “experts” in my field didn’t know everything for me to gain confidence in my own knowledge and experience of my field. What I don’t know, I will learn from others and so continue to grow.
- I became empowered in my confidence every time I stepped out of my comfort zone only to realize that I did well. The more times I gave something a try and ended with positive results, the more I became confident in my abilities. Yes, those times when it didn’t go well seemed to set me back more than the positive times moved me forward, but regardless, I kept on keeping on. I’m not perfect when it comes to public speaking or teaching, etc., but I do my best, and more times than not, there is positive feedback from the audience. Had I not moved out of my comfort zone, my self-confidence would still be quite low.
- As I mentioned above, confidence is not to be equated with always being right or knowing everything. Confidence grows from an understanding of who you are, the positives and negatives. We all have growth opportunities, so don’t let the fact that you are not “perfect” stop you from feeling confident. Feel confident knowing that you are both talented and flawed, perfect in some aspects yet need to grow in others.
- Take time for yourself. Self-care is vitally important to physical and mental health. Spending time nurturing yourself and meditating provides you the opportunity to know yourself better. In this self-knowledge, you will find your confidence and your growth opportunities. Work on both!
In my continuing journey of confidence, I realize that I don’t need to be perfect in all knowledge or skill. Still, I do need to be self-reflective with a willingness to grow. Take the time to learn about yourself, then step out of your comfort zone and give it a try! If it works well, fantastic, do it again! If it doesn’t work well, excellent, learn from it, then do it again!