Updated: Jan 17
When I think about ways to cope with this time of year, I think, well, what would make me feel ok? And I hate to say it, the usual platitudes must be true. Or true for most people. Nothing is true for everyone. Anyway, here goes a holiday season-centric how to deal.
1. Go Slowly
Acknowledge yourself and your feelings. Stop before you react. Many of us have time. (Some of us don’t). If we’re lucky enough to be able to sit with this time, it may be beneficial to use those senses to take in the change of season. The winter solstice is soon! What do these short days feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Look like? Taste like? How do these sensations resonate within you and then without you— outside of you. We tend toward doing, but there is gratitude in being. It’s still giving— to yourself, this earth, each other. Slow.
2. Give to Others
Getting help or a gift is great, but giving, even giving a gift, is like this multi-dimensional feeling I have trouble describing. And this is what conventional wisdom suggests! There’s nothing like giving (not the idea of giving too much of your own energy and not leaving any for yourself-- that’s a blog for another time). But if you have the time or the means or feel comfortable at this time to give--seeing the good in humanity and knowing that good is you-- is priceless. I’ll be honest, when I remember that I’m considering making cookies to leave in friends’ mailboxes, a cloud lifts in my mind. This works for two reasons: it’s both giving AND an activity. If we learned anything from behavior-based therapy, it’s that activity can boost mood. Additionally, there’s planning involved. You know that whole thing that if you plan a vacation, you get some feel-good juice in your brain without even going on that vacation. Anyway, we’ve veered from giving to others, but giving to others is giving to yourself. If you are looking for ideas, I've included a list of mental health based-organized that accept donations at the end of this post.
3. Give to Yourself
Maybe you need a boost this year. That’s ok! Take yourself on a little small-town fantasy date. Go to the coffee shop, get a hot chocolate and walk around town in your ear muffs and gloves, looking at the lights. Remember to wear your mask while there are people around. The hot chocolate needs to cool down, anyway. More conventional wisdom: spending money on an experience yields more positive feels than a PS5. Hence the walkabout with the drink treat (here’s that activity piece again!).
4. Don’t Give (but, you know, being a Grinch is not ideal)
You really don’t have to do anything at all. It’s just the month that starts getting really cold (in the Northeast). As much as culture puts a premium on December, there isn’t any inherent meaning there. This is a year when you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything if you feel uncomfortable for COVID reasons. Ritual and tradition is important. Make your own. This still sounds like giving to me.
5. Consider Therapy
The fact of the matter is, this is a difficult time of year for a lot of people. The thought of being with family is tough. The thought of being without family is tough (2020). It’s truly not uncommon to start therapy around this “jolly” time of year. It’s hard for us humans, as always, to sit in the ambivalence that can exist among feelings of loss, loneliness, isolation, anger, anxiety, sadness, and the spirit of December. It takes practice and sometimes guidance. It’s rarely a bad time to consider therapy. Reach out.
Some Mental Health-Related Non-Profits
Loveland Fund provides a therapy fund for communities of color.
National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network also provides a therapy fund for those in need
(I like these therapy funds because donations can go straight to getting people connected to services)
Some old stand-bys: