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 there are some of us who 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 family. There are those who 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 true for some, they’re not necessarily true for everyone. I'm not writing this to bring down the mood, for what I am saying is that we need to be mindful of people around us who may be suffering while we celebrate. Not all of my past holidays have been joyous, and I’m sure neither have yours. 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 simply 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 honestly share their feelings. While attending or planning parties and gatherings don’t simply encourage everyone to participate, be respectful of those who are having a difficult time participating. Try to plan activities which would allow for a person to participate to 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 organising the family dinner, take into account any family members who have had a difficult year. Allow them the 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 interest 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 self 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 effective 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. Silence, especially for someone who is suffering emotionally, is not healthy this time of the year. If they are reluctant to share, lovingly encourage them by letting them know that you will listen without judgement 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.
If you're ready to explore life coaching, we would be honored to help. You can read more here about our life coaching practice or call the office directly at 301-850-2177.
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