The time is upon us again-the wonderful holiday season, yet for some this isn’t the case. Some individuals have lost their job or a loved one; some may have moved to a new location away from family and friends; others are stressed with the demands of balancing family and work during the holidays; others face uncertainty during the new year in a variety of ways such as financial stresses or strains, divorce, parenting, and handling the concerns of older parents or relatives welfare.
Looking toward these days and weeks ahead require planning and use of good strategies to create the days best suited for the individual, couple, or family. In this blog posting, I would like to share some tips, ideas, and strategies for you, the reader, to make the best of these days ahead. First, grief and loss doesn’t just involve the loss of a loved one due to sudden illness or death, yet involves loss of a family unit due to divorce, loss of job, changes in health status, or other serious concerns where one grieves what they once had in their life. If you are in one of these circumstances, taking care of yourself is so important. Find time to be alone yet also find time to connect with support of others who truly care about you and your family. Take one hour and one day at a time. Schedule your day in a way that some exercise is put into place. Look for some happiness, even in a simple way, each day without feeling guilty of feeling joy. Look for ways to connect with others such as in community activities, faith communities, and service organizations. Health eating habits are so important as well as getting good, quality sleep between 7-8 hours each night.
Second, balance of family life with work is an area is truly challenging in today’s society. Many families have to have two wage earners to make certain their financial goals are met each month, yet with increases in the every day expenses this poses problems. Parents find little time for themselves, the self care of exercise, time with friends, dates with their spouse, and also alone time. The holiday season poses challenges in how to “just get everything done”. A suggestion for both my counseling and coaching clients is to set a schedule for the month, at the beginning of each month, listing all activities whether in a single or two parent home, to show what free time can be gained for those areas of life so very needed-family, couple, individual, and alone time. Set up lists of things to do each day or each week, delegating items for even children to share each day. Then revisit the calendar and list each week for determining necessary changes. This process has been found to be so helpful in many ways to balance out life.
Third, there are times, such as these, when many of my clients find themselves in financial stress with such uncertainty about how 2013 and future years will look. Financial stress truly is seen during this time of year with wanting to buy gifts for those people one is close to and at the same time managing to not increase debt that cannot be paid. Financial stress is determined by each individual whether it is unemployment, changes in job with reduced earning, loss of a wage earner due to illness or death, or unexpected increased expenses. Ways financial stress occur are in areas of not planning ahead, spending too much, and spending to satisfy self-esteem needs. Ending financial stress can occur by a) exploring your values writing down and discussing them either with family or a professional; b) set goals for all areas of your life, including money, c) make a plan to change your behavior, d) develop a budget having it reviewed with a professional for guidance, e) set up a plan to get out of debt, e) don’t by anything on credit unless it is an emergency, f) discriminate between what you want and what you need, g) avoid buying something that needs maintenance or accessories, h) during the holidays, make an arrangement with your family and friends to place a limit on spending for gifts, i) admit that you can’t afford to buy certain items, and j) increase your appreciation for what you have by volunteering during this holiday season to help others in need.
Fourth, holiday blues happen to some individuals. Holiday blues are caused by fears of disappointing others, expecting gifts to improve relationships, anniversary reactions due to loss of a loved one, bad memories, or seasonal affective disorder. Dealing with the holiday blues can be challenging yet know it is temporary. Some suggestions are to be realistic so as to not let the holiday season solve all past problems. Drink less alcohol in order to not have the expectation with increased drinking of improved well-being. Give yourself permission to not feel cheerful, if you just don’t feel like it. Have a spending limit and stick to it. Be honest with yourself and others by expressing your feelings and thoughts by using an “I feel” statement. Look for sources of support at faith communities, mental health practices or clinics, or support groups. Give yourself special care by relaxing and pampering yourself. Set limits and priorities being realistic about what you can accomplish. Most importantly, get some exercise as it boosts serotonin and endorphins. Lastly, if you or someone you know has seen this as a pattern, check with your personal physician or seek the care of a mental health practitioner who can assist with determining whether you have seasonal affective disorder making suggestions on how to reduce your level of sadness or depression.
The holidays can truly be a great time of year, experienced simply. Choose what works for you or your family, and try to appreciate the things life has to offer each day, health, the lights, time with friends, experiencing faith community events, seeking special music, or just enjoying that special cup of coffee with a friend. If you find there is need for assistance in this area of holiday stress or blues, or assistance is needed to just be coached through challenges of balancing work and life, contact the practice at (843) 652-5532 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of the holidays to you,
Kathy L. Fortner, EdS LPC CCMHC