We are in the full swing of the holiday season and in the final stretch of 2020. This season can be the best time of the year, spreading holiday cheer, spending time with your loved ones and reflecting on all the accomplishments that we have achieved as we set new goals for this New Year, but for some of us the holidays can bring the blues.
For many people the holiday season can ignite depression and loneliness. They are the reminder of what we have lost and what we don’t have. I lost my father when I was seven and a half months old. He was killed on Easter Sunday while on holiday leave from the U.S. Army. He went to pick up his best friend at his house to take him to my grandmother’s house to observe the holiday. His best friend and his best friend’s neighbor were at odds and through ego, a fight developed between them and when my father tried to break it up, he was stabbed and killed. I have thought often about this story throughout my years growing up. Was that fight worth a human life? Was that fight worth a little girl losing her father for the rest of her life? I will never know what it is like to have a dad. I will never know what it was like to spend a Christmas with her dad or celebrate her birthday. I will never know what it is like to have my father walk me down the aisle. I will never know what it would have been like to experience that special bond between a daughter and her father. What did I do to deserve this to happen to me? A disagreement impacted the lives of all who loved my father. Was it worth the ego bruise? What did it do to me? It broke up my family model and I can say that it took its toll many years later and even in my dating life, of my perception of men in the household and how to be in a relationship.
No Christmas was ever the same in my house. I used to hate Christmas. I would see all my friend’s and family celebrating the holidays with their parents and yet, I was left feeling the void, that emptiness. The holidays are hard enough for some people and with this pandemic, the isolation that we are experiencing is the culprit of many people who are reminded of their losses, their loved ones that have passed on, not being where they want to be in their lives, and not being able to spend time with their loved ones for fear of getting the virus.
Last month in November, there were more suicides in Japan than there have been people who died from Covid-19 in all of 2020 in their country. Why do these things happen? We know that holiday depression can be caused from losing a loved one, loneliness, stress, social anxiety, financial strain, and unrealistic expectations.
If you are feeling the holiday stress or blues, there are things that you can do to help get you out of that funk and what I have learned from my own personal experience of battling those demons of depression, loneliness and emptiness. How can we flip the script?
1) SPEAK YOUR TRUTH - The first step I have learned throughout my lifetime and from several support groups is don’t keep your sadness, loneliness, or suicidal thoughts to yourself. Speak your truth. There is a saying that the truth shall set you free. Holding onto things especially negative thoughts or emotions can be detrimental. If you feel sad reach out to someone, talk to them and let them know how you are feeling. I know you may think that this shows a sign of weakness, but to wear your heart on your sleeve takes more courage than holding it in. I have noticed when sharing my deepest and darkest thoughts and fears, I found that these feelings are more common in people than you think, and even more common in some of the happiest people you know.
If you don’t have anyone you can openly talk to, there are hotlines that you can call to speak to someone.
Depression Hotline - 866-306-3026
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 800-273-8255
SAMSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Admin. - 800-662-HELP
2.) ALLOW OTHERS TO HELP YOU - Isolation is the worst place to put yourself in. When I was depressed, I never wanted to be around anyone, but being left alone with only my thoughts was a danger place to be. I had the hardest time allowing other people to help me. Sometimes I just needed to connect, other times I just needed to escape my sadness and the feeling of emptiness, so if someone offers to lend an ear, please accept the offer. Zoom get-togethers are fun or FaceTime with a friend of relative. You don't even have to talk about how you're feeling if you are not up to it, but talk about stories and memories or your dreams and passions. I know this has helped me get out of my funk. Most importantly stay connected.
3.) TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH - Make sure you're getting plenty of sleep. I learned something in a twelve-step program, HALT. It is saying we had and an acronym for HUNGRY - ANGRY - LONELY - TIRED. We often said that these are all triggers to the 'ism' we talk about in a twelve step programs, but this ideology doesn't just apply to addicts. When you are hungry, you can get agitated pretty easily. I am hypo-glycemic so the difference between skipping breakfast or lunch will make or break my day. If I don't eat, it can spark a tension or migraine headache. When I am angry, nothing good ever comes out of that and my temper can been the cause of unnecessary distress that I may regret later, but the worst for me is the feeling of loneliness. When we feel alone, we often push the people away in our lives that love us and want to show up for us. As humans we seek connection and need to feel connected and when we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, we feel like we don't belong and that is simply not true, it just becomes the perception of our truth. It is hard to flip the narrative on this, but it is not impossible - it just takes discipline and work. Sleep is also so important. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, so it's important to make sure that we are taking care of our body, it's the only one we have and for longevity purposes without complications, we need to nurture and take care of it.
4.) FLIP THE NARRATIVE - I used to get depressed around the holidays but I finally learned in my adult life that I had the power to change the way I viewed the holidays at any time. One thing about depression and our minds is that I can let the pessimistic part of myself take me down the rabbit hole and then it will trigger all the bad things that have happened in my life and compound itself into a narrative that leaves me hopeless and feeling that I will never experience happiness. It wasn't until I started taking the initiative to make the change by starting with small changes. I started volunteering during the holidays thinking that I was going to help some people that were less fortunate than I was, but by the end of it all, I found that I was the one that needed them. I felt a sense of purpose that I could show up for others and it was rewarding to pass out toys to children or feed holiday meals to the veterans who risked their lives so that we can all sleep safe at night. Many times I would cook holiday meals and bag them up and take them around to homeless people and leave them in front of their tents. I needed them and the best part is that it made me learn how to show up for others. I eventually started hosting my own orphan holiday parties for all my friends who couldn't make it home for the holidays to be with their loved ones or didn't have family. Over the years, our orphan parties started growing and soon all of us became our own hand-crafted family and we were no longer feeling left out or like orphans. It starts with one thing... just one thing!
5.) GRATITUDE - For me, when I am grateful for my life and all of my experiences, I realize how far I have come. I found that happiness lies in simple gratitude. We may never have all the money we want, fame, or fortune but those things truly don't make people happy. I know many rich people that are unhappy. I am not perfect but from where I came from and where I am at now, I have literally won the lottery of reclaiming my life and becoming responsible for my own happiness. I can honestly say that today I am a happy person who is in full gratitude for the perseverance I have had in not giving up on myself. When I go to sleep at night, I don't have a monkey mind full of doubt or negative emotions anymore. It's easy to get locked into taking inventory at the end of the year and feeling bad if you haven't accomplished everything you've set out to do, but if you focus on small goals and achieve them one at a time, even if it means getting up an hour earlier every morning or exercising three times a week, that is a goal.
6.) BE KIND TO YOURSELF - Love starts with self-love. If you don't know how to love yourself, then start off with something small. If you haven't been eating healthy, set out a goal that for today, I will eat healthy. When you accomplish that you can set a goal for something bigger. This is practicing self-love. Treating yourself to a long bath with candles, or making yourself your favorite meal or baking your favorite baked goods, will make you feel good about yourself. Most importantly, try at least for a day not to criticize yourself, not get down on yourself and when you find those negative thoughts seeping in, as they often do, challenge those thoughts and turn that thought from a negative into a positive. Just for one day, try to master flipping the script for every negative thought, counter it, into a positive thought.
Let's all be grateful that we made it through 2020! That is an astonishing accomplishment and shows that we are tougher than we think we are.
I wish everyone one of you a great end to 2020 and wish that the 2021 New Year brings you new tools to practice self-love and care, helps you to set new small realistic goals, brings new life experiences, new dreams of manifesting, is a bringer of new love or renewed love, finds you healthy and in good spirits, and it gifts you a heart filled with gratitude and passion. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!