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A Gentle Reminder to Anyone Who’s Struggling This Holiday Season

A Gentle Reminder to Anyone Who’s Struggling This Holiday Season

“It’s okay to want to be alone. It’s okay to take time for yourself.” ~Kate Allan

It’s the holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year, they say, but it’s not for all of us. Holidays can be difficult for people who have lost a loved one or are living with financial hardships, loneliness, family discord, financial difficulties, or health problems.

Holidays can make it feel like we are being cast out in the cold. It’s as if we have to see through the windows of a loving, happy family.

Many people feel the need to have more time with loved ones or support family members. We get lost in our holiday memories or fantasies about how the holidays might have been if we lived a different life.

It is easy to feel pressured to cover up our problems, bake cookies, wear a happy smile, and put on ugly Christmas sweaters and go to the office holiday party. There we laugh and engage in endless small talk. We try our best not to bring up the subject of the holiday season.

These events can cause us to feel totally exhausted. We purchase obligatory gifts for friends and coworkers. Then, we spend hours trying out to determine what they would like. We second-guess ourselves after the gift has been purchased and worry about whether we have missed the mark.

In an effort to impress others and make everyone feel good, some of us may host parties or obsess about making our tree look perfect.

Society has flooded our heads with unrealistic expectations about perfect gifts, beautiful homes with matching decorations, unlimited resources, happy times with family, and lavishly decorated homes. We are often stressed and exhausted by trying to live up social pressures.

As I’ve experienced many losses in my life over the years or felt rejected by family members, I realized that it is important to take care of oneself during the holidays.

I am an altruistic person who will go out of my way to please others, so taking care of me is not easy for me. In the past I felt guilty for putting my own needs first, but over the years I’ve learned that our own needs are just as important as everyone else’s. It can be detrimental to our own health and the health of those around us if we give up on ourselves in order to please others.

Reflect on what it is that you have been doing wrong this holiday season. You Would you like to spend the holidays? Remember, you don’t have to buy the perfect gift for everyone, put up a tree, decorate the entire house, spend hours baking cookies, or even attend that family gathering.

If you are worried that a friend will be disappointed that you are not attending an event, you can suggest that you meet up for coffee when you’re feeling up to it.

In the past, I was afraid that a friend might judge me for missing a holiday party. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that true friends are compassionate and won’t judge us if we need to be alone.

If you’re struggling this holiday season, the most important thing to do is to pay attention and do what is best for yourself.

You can choose to curl up with Netflix, a book, and your pet on the couch instead of attending a family event or party. Sometimes it is better for our health to decline invitations and take a break.

The holidays can be difficult for people who are used to being busy. Our workplaces are usually closed or slower than at other times of year.

I keep a list of to-dos that includes recipes and cleaning chores, new shows/movies I want, places I want go to see Christmas lights, as well as other things that help me to cope. I also buy myself something that I have always wanted but don’t necessarily need as a form of self-love and self-affirmation.

Volunteer work is something I enjoy because it makes me feel less alone. I don’t have time to dwell on the past or regrettable events.

I have given up holiday traditions that brought me no joy. I don’t go to church or make desserts with dried fruit or decorate my tree with handmade ornaments that are unsafe for my pets. I try to avoid buying material gifts for friends. I prefer to treat my friends to concerts, art galleries exhibits, and museum shows that we can all enjoy together.

A few traditions have brought me joy have been kept by me. My childhood friend bought me a hallmark ornament to give as a gift. Now I own one. I donate to charity, and I purchase a gift for someone in need.

I also have started to make my own traditions, such as baking my favorite cake or taking a break in digital communication. Every day, I make time to be grateful for the things I have and the people and animals that make my life so wonderful.

I don’t force myself to do anything I am not feeling up for, and I do not spend time with people I do not feel comfortable being around. The holidays became less stressful, exhausting, and more peaceful once I began to do this.

When I feel down, I remind my self that everything is temporary and that the future may look different. I may feel more upbeat and excited during other holidays. But for now, I need to love myself, and that means doing what’s best for me.

This holiday season, be kind to yourself and treat yourself like a friend. This is the best gift we can give to ourselves.

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Jen Hinkkala

Jen Hinkkala, a PhD student, researcher and teacher in arts education in Canada, is a teacher. Her goal is to discover what experiences and factors lead to greater levels of wellbeing, resilience, and self-care for arts educators and students. Jen is also an anxiety and self-care coach. Jen runs a support group for estranged adults and a group to support personal development. Follow her here Twitter / Blog.

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