Healing from the Holidays
There’s an unspoken myth when it comes to the holidays. With all the goodness surrounding this time of the year, it’s easy to think that it’s impossible to not be completely happy around this time. It’s common to assume that during the holidays, if no other time of the year, you have to push past any negativity that you may have experienced in a year for the sake of emoting the joyous feelings that the holidays should bring. Sometimes we place this expectation on ourselves even in the face of healing from trauma, anxiety, or grief that may have transpired throughout the year.
Here’s the real, real.
This is not always true. The holiday season isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for some people. It can be a painful reminder of grief. Losing someone close to you on a holiday where you once shared memories can be difficult. It can also be a reminder of family trauma. In families where constant tension and dysfunction exists, holiday gatherings where things may have popped off might be a trigger! For some, the holidays may trigger sadness or anxiety; because of the desire to please our loved ones. Whatever the situation, remember, be kind to yourself.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas behind us, it’s not too late to start considering what can be done to decompress from what may have been a stressful holiday season before beginning a new chapter and year.
I, for one, tried to do things a little differently this holiday season. Instead of spending 8-10 hours in the kitchen as I usually do on Thanksgiving, preparing the perfect meal, I decided to take a short trip to one of my favorite cities and a city I once called home, Chicago. My mom and I went on a dinner cruise for Thanksgiving, which is so unlike us because we’re the ones typically doing all the cooking. But it was nice to forego tradition this year and make new ones, prioritizing quality time over slaving in the kitchen all day! (Albeit, it’s always worth it when everything is done!) 😋
For Christmas Day, I got up and whipped up a traditional southern breakfast and would usually start cooking all the Christmas favorites (the usual dressing, collards, yams, cornbread, etc.) immediately after. This time around, I didn’t want to spend Christmas Day cooking. Instead, my husband and I got in the car and drove to the nearest Florida island, and spent Christmas at the beach. That was definitely a first and no where near a tradition in our family, but it felt great to see the refreshing Atlantic Ocean and get some fresh air during a time where I would normally be knee deep in vegetable oil and frying grease.
Full disclosure, I was still craving dumplings, collard greens, and yams when we got back so, I was up until 2 am cooking! Yes, it was still worth it. 😅
The point is not to omit the things you traditionally love to do around the holidays, but rather work on the things that would genuinely make you happy. Don’t be afraid to switch it up if that’s what you need. The fear of missing out may keep some people hinged on their traditions. Which is understandable. Just know that it is okay to embrace change if it means prioritizing your mental health and happiness during a time where it’s so easy to neglect.
As we prepare for the last holiday of the holiday season, I’ll leave you with these few tips:
Set your boundaries and stick to them.
If hosting a large family gathering is too much for you this time around, say so. Especially if there is a history of confrontation or uncomfortable situations that always seem to arise when your family pulls up. It’s okay to protect your space and your mental health. Perhaps host a short Zoom check-in with your family to still feel connected.
The holidays can undoubtedly bring up all kinds of emotions that may have been absent all year. Smelling a certain food, hearing a particular Christmas song, or seeing your favorite holiday movie might bring up memories of a loved one you lost or a memory when the relational dynamic of your family was different. It’s okay to sit in that, feel your feelings. Instead of finding ways to stay busy and forget the emotions those things bring you, take a second to be mindful of the grief, nostalgia, and sadness. It’s what makes us human.
Start therapy or talk to someone.
Speaking with a licensed therapist is the best way to reset for the new year. It seems as though from October to January 1, the time flies through a whole three months and poof, a new year! With everything going on, you may have unknowingly forgotten about your well-being. Talking to a therapist or a close friend just to vocalize your feelings could be a great way to unburden yourself from the holiday rush and blues. If negative feelings persist past the holidays, continue to seek therapy. It truly helps.
Healing looks different for everyone, but it’s necessary to take action to be the best version of yourself for you, first and for your loved ones.
Until Next Time, Keep Healing,