For many, this time of year is all about celebrations, reunions with family and friends, delicious meals, gifts and laughter. But for some, this festive season can be a source of stress, sadness and even loneliness. Maybe you are away from the people you love, maybe you feel like you have no-one to spend this time with, maybe you are spending it with people you love but find it overwhelmingly stressful or maybe you associate the festive season with trauma or loss and find yourself filled with dread every time it rolls around. If you find the festive season difficult, here are The Tarot Guide’s top tips on how to cope with it and turn a negative into a positive.
Tis the season to:
1. Let Go Of The Expectations:
I spent a few years travelling and living abroad so I inevitably found myself in a foreign land, away from my family and friends, during the festive season. I remember being in Australia and absolutely dreading the holidays. I was missing my family and friends, missing waking up and opening presents and the big holiday feast. I was even missing the cold weather! There I was in a beautiful, hot, sunny country with so many opportunities and I was missing the Irish rain! We all have expectations of what the festive season is supposed to look like. But the truth is, while you may be feeling lonely this season, if you let go of the expectations of what you think it should be, then you can open yourself up to embracing the opportunities around you. For me, letting go of the expectation meant that instead of hiding in my room, depressed, homesick and just counting the hours until the holidays were over, I spent the day cliff diving, having driven out to a beautiful beach with a load of new friends (all of whom were in the same situation). Another year, letting go of the expectation meant gathering another group together and throwing a big festive barbecue and watching movies. Was I still a little homesick at the time? Yes. Did I have a brilliant day anyway? HELL, YES! If you let go of the expectations, you open yourself up to the possibilities of what the day can be.
Likewise, if you have people to spend the holidays with but you feel overwhelmed, stressed out and find yourself in panic mode, let go of the expectations! It’s doesn’t have to be perfect! Sometimes the things that don’t quite go to plan end up being your fondest memories. Our barbecue got rained on but with the help of a huge umbrella and sheer determination, we made it work. The movies we watched were so cheesy that we spent most of the time critiquing them and laughing about how dreadful they were. To this day, whenever I see one of those movies on TV, I’m flooded with the happiest memories of a day that could have been awful but turned out to be actually kind of fabulous.
2. Keep It In Perspective!
We’re talking about weeks (if not months!) of running around, stressing ourselves out, getting stuck in crazy traffic, panicking about what to buy, possibly getting ourselves into debt and, for some, nosediving into sadness and depression for what actually is only a few days out of the year. All the emotions involved in this season can be overwhelming and hard to endure but remember to keep it in perspective. It’s just a few days so don’t let it kidnap your thoughts and make you forget about all the amazing opportunities your life may yet bring you.
3. Practice Self-Care While Creating Traditions
In all the chaos this season can bring, it’s easy to get swept away, get overwhelmed and forget about self-care. But you can’t pour from an empty cup so if you don’t have any already, start some holiday traditions that are just about you focusing on yourself and taking care of yourself. I have a few little holiday traditions that make me release some of the tension and take a bit of time for myself. For example, each year, I take some time out from the chaos of shopping, go get myself the most delicious hot chocolate I can find and just sit and watch the crowds go by. It only takes a few minutes but those few minutes are mine and I always feel much more relaxed and revived afterwards. There are other things you can try too: buy yourself some nice pyjamas and make your own little ritual of bathing, getting into your new pyjamas and chilling out. A great tradition for this time of year is to do an end of year clearing ceremony. Think of it like an emotional and mental clear out. Review your year and write in a journal about what were your highlights, what was your low point, what you learned this year, what you are taking with you into next year, what you are leaving behind/releasing and what your goals are for next year.
4. Set Boundaries
A lot of the stress of this season comes from not setting healthy boundaries. So try setting some boundaries to take the pressure off. For example, if organising the big festive dinner is overwhelming for you, get everyone attending to bring a dish. If you feel like you’re getting into debt that you can’t afford, set yourself a budget and stick to it or organise a Secret Santa. You’re unlikely to be the only one feeling the pressure and you might find other people will be relieved that you spoke up. With work, you may feel pressured into working a lot more over the holidays, especially if you aren’t spending the holidays with family which, in my experience, some employers can see as a green light to make you work the whole festive season! Set boundaries and make it work in your favour. You could say “I’m happy to work some of the holidays but I want certain days off” or “I’ll work all of it but I want first pick on taking days off during the summer” or whatever seems fair and reasonable to you in your industry. If you’re dreading the nights out that this season can bring because you feel you will be pressured to drink alcohol or drink more than you want to, say no! You can either say no to the event altogether (if you don’t want to go), attend the event but limit your drinks or tell people that you’ll pop in for an hour or two but you can’t stay late. Have healthy boundaries and don’t allow yourself to be forced into things you don’t want to do and give yourself permission to leave without feeling guilty when you’ve had enough.
5. Own Your Emotions
Many people have negative emotional associations with this time of year. You may have lost a loved one, gone through a bad breakup, lost a job, fallen out with family or friends or had a traumatic event that you associate this time of the year with. Whatever the case, you are not alone in feeling sadness, grief or depression. The holiday season for all its good vibes and positive benefits can hit some of us, who have experienced great loss or trauma, like a tonne of bricks. Rather than try to suppress these emotions, own them.
A lot of times, we are afraid to allow ourselves to experience these feelings, especially at this time of the year, because we don’t want to ruin the holidays or depress everyone around us. But remember, just because you feel and process your emotions, doesn’t mean you have to set up camp there. So, if you find you have difficult emotions to deal for any reason during the festivities, schedule an hour or two for yourself to sit with those feelings, write about them and allow yourself cry if you need to. Then, when the time is up, give yourself permission to enjoy the rest of the day and just be present in the moment.
If you’ve lost a loved one and you know that, despite your attempts to put on brave face, this time of year always brings up great sadness for you, own that sadness! Instead of trying not to think about your loved one, honour them as part of your celebrations. You could make donation to charity in their honour or swap stories about them with family and friends who may also be thinking about them. You could also set up a lovely photo of them in a frame with a candle and light the candle before you sit down for dinner, to let them know you are thinking of them. Give your grief somewhere to go, honour your loved one in a way that makes them part of the celebration. They’ll be right there with you, loving you from the other side.
6. Find Gratitude
As always, gratitude is the quickest way to shift your focus from negative to positive. So, after you’ve taken the time to honour your emotions and you have allowed yourself to feel how you feel, just take a couple of minutes to think or write about the things that you are grateful for. Pick three things that you are grateful for and really focus on them, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are. No matter how hard our path has become, even when we’ve experienced serious loss, grief and trauma, there are always things to be grateful for. We can be grateful for the people and things we still have in our lives or we can simply be grateful for the fact that we are still alive and, as such, we still have an opportunity to overcome our challenges and have countless possibilities in front of us.
If you are lonely or feeling isolated or sad, giving to others is a great way to shift your focus and to make you feel connected and fulfilled again. There are plenty of homeless shelters that would jump at the chance to have another volunteer, even if you just wash dishes or help distribute the food, they would be glad of the help. Or call in and visit an elderly neighbour. There are always people out there who could use our help and volunteering to help others is a great way to step outside your comfort zone and meet new people.
8. Reach Out
If you are feeling lonely, isolated, sad or depressed, reach out and tell someone! Often we will hide the fact that we are alone over the holidays or that we feel sad or depressed at this time of year but there is no shame in it! We are all human and we will all, at some point, hit times that we will struggle with, so don’t be afraid to reach out and let people know how you’re feeling. Many people are so wrapped up in the holiday madness that they assume everything is OK or it doesn’t occur to them to check if everyone they care about has an invite. Often just sharing your struggles can set changes in motion. Whether that’s calling your local helpline (For the UK/ Ireland The Samaritans helpline is 116123) or letting a colleague or friend know about your situation, reach out and say something! If you are alone, look up your local event pages or meet ups. Most big cities will have an event or dinner for people who are alone on the holidays, so find one and go to it! Step out of your comfort zone. It could be the beginning of some beautiful friendships!
I hope that whatever way you spend this holiday season you find love, warmth and joy!
Happy Yule Everybody!