The holidays are a time for merry-making—but it can also be a time of high stress and, for some, loneliness. Those who may be experiencing the latter, grief over the loss of a loved one, or coping with limb loss can experience heightened isolation and sadness during the holidays.
And because of the holiday festivities, your routine—diet, exercise habits, and sleep schedule—may be disrupted, which can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Add to all this the seasonal reductions in sunlight, and it’s easy to succumb to the holiday blues or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness, keep reading.
1. Don’t stop your self-care habits.
Despite how busy the season gets, it’s more important than ever to uphold your self-care routine as it’s vital for maintaining mental wellness.
Make sure to eat healthy as much as possible; keep your exercise routine, and keep doing the things you enjoy. Your self-care habits create the foundation for healthy coping.
2. Set realistic expectations.
It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday frenzy. Before you know it, you may have said “yes” to a couple of gatherings and even committed to cooking a dish or two. There’s nothing wrong with bulking up your social calendar during the holidays, but make sure to set realistic expectations for yourself.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can decline a couple of invites. You can even choose not to decorate your home if it doesn’t bring joy to you. Your mental well-being depends on setting realistic expectations, so you don’t overextend yourself and even put a strain on your finances.
3. Connect with others.
Despite what retailers would like us to think, the holidays are about connecting with your loved ones; it’s not about the gifts you buy or the dinners that you host. Furthermore, connecting with others can also help you when you’re struggling with feelings of isolation or sadness around the holidays.
You can make it a point to reach out to one person per week or per day, depending on what is comfortable for you. Call a friend or make plans to meet up for coffee.
If you have a charity or an organization that means a lot to you, you can volunteer and meet some new people along the way. If you have an amputee support group, make sure to touch base with them over the holidays. Connecting with others can make a difference.
4. Acknowledge feelings of loss.
Perhaps you had a rough year, and you don’t feel like joining in all the merrymaking during the season. Don’t force yourself. Rather than try to suppress any sadness, it may help to acknowledge it and allow yourself to feel sad. It’s part of the healing process.
5. Plan ahead.
Planning to avoid or minimize any holiday stressors may help you cope. If a particular celebration feels difficult for you because it reminds you of someone who is no longer in your life, you can plan a gathering with friends or family. Or perhaps you can take advantage of the holiday season next time and book a trip to a place you’ve never been to before.
It’s easy to feel pressured and overwhelmed during the holidays; however, there are ways to cope with it. Remember, you can say “no,” and you can allow yourself to feel sad, especially when you think that acknowledging those feelings can help move your healing process forward.