It’s the most wonderful time of the year for some!
But if you’re like me and this hasn’t been the most wonderful time of the year, getting through the holidays can feel more like a draining chore than a time of merriment and joy. So today I wanted to share some tips that I find helpful to get me through this time of the year.
Firstly, a little backstory. 2018 started for myself in a pretty amazing way. I saved my money and I bought myself a two week ticket to London and Paris. I was in my final year of nursing and excited to graduate, I was in a semi-stable but happy (for me) relationship, and I was on good terms with my family, something that had taken several years and trust building to occur. So things were looking pretty okay at the start of the year.
Now we enter November 2018 and see a very different story playing out. I had failed a critical maths exam and as a result, I would not be graduating for another year. My relationship had completely broken down into nothing but silence between two people who used to be the best of friends. And finally, my relationship with my mother, had more than broken down. It had been shot, set on fire, then left to drown a miserable and lonely death. And so a time that was meant to be filled with love, laughter, and days of excitement, was instead a colossal mass of loss in every direction.
In general, I genuinely love Christmas and the holidays. I love the excitement, the lights, the baking, I love buying my loved ones presents and having a wonderful time celebrating with them. Basically, I am a Christmas lover. But for all of the reasons above I do not have the motivation, the energy, I have nothing to offer anyone right now except the grief I feel and the hopeful wish that the holidays end swiftly and soon. But here is where we talk about some of the ways in which we can get through this time as best as we can.
To begin, it is extremely important to understand that if you are feeling loss, any sort of loss that is relevant to you, it can be incredibly helpful to talk to a professional. I can only relay what I have been told by professionals but there is a vast difference between me telling you, and you experiencing it yourself with a much more guided and professional individual.
So with that said, my first tip on dealing with loss over the holidays is to let yourself feel the loss. It might be constant, it might come in waves, it might awaken you at random moments in the night. And all of that is okay. Do not push these feelings down, hide them away, or shut them off. To deal with loss and grief is to experience it, in any shape or form. And once you start to allow yourself to feel it to its full effect, handling it and coping starts to become a little easier. Now I would never write a tip on here that I have not or am not currently doing myself. We are in this together. So I can safely say that yes, I feel loss at random times, sometimes when I am at work and I am overcome with tears, sometimes after a nightmare where people who are no longer there are telling me they love me. These are incredibly powerful feelings and emotions, but I have let all of them in, let them wash over me until it was time to go, and now I feel much more okay about the situations than I did before.
Next, a tip that is fast becoming my favourite therapeutic technique. This one is called the “Leaves on a Stream” method. To do this, you close your eyes and imagine a stream of water, in any shape or form you like. Then, when you feel for example anxiety, name it, name it the anxiety leaf, and then imagine the leaf is floating in the stream. Similarly, if you feel a very deep sadness, name it, name it blue sadness leaf or something you like, and then once more place the leaf in the stream. As you place the leaves in the stream, the thoughts and feelings do not have as much of a hold on you, as they are floating, maybe far away, and you are still there, protected by the stream. My lovely therapist has told me there is great importance in naming your thoughts, naming your feelings and emotions. By naming it you are acknowledging it, and that is truly powerful in letting us let these things go.
Now lastly, and this is one that can be used more effectively in a social situation, this is called the “Drop Anchor” method. Now this one is really amazing if you are like me, and you get anxiety in social situations. But more importantly, if you are feeling overwhelmed by people over the holidays, you can use this while sitting in a chair or on a couch, and not have to leave the room every time you are feeling a bit overcome. So basically, one sits in a chair or wherever and feel your feet anchoring you to the floor. Then, you can work your way up, you can press your palms to your thighs, whatever is comfortable, but you are focusing on the feeling of being anchored, not the anxiety. And this technique is pretty amazing because if you look at the room around you, the people, the size of the room itself, your anxiety in comparison starts to look very tiny. And once you realise how tiny it is, suddenly the room isn’t so scary and hopefully you don’t feel anxious anymore. This technique is really great because you can basically do it without anyone noticing too, so you can still feel included in what’s going on around you.
So those are my very 3 favourite ideas and techniques to handling this loss over the holidays. I have practised these a few times and they have really helped me feel better. And I know that for most of us it is going to take a while to really be better and feel like ourselves, but in the mean time, you can practice these every day and hopefully they work for you as well as they do for me.
I do want to once again reiterate that I am not a professional, I am not a doctor or a therapist, I am just a girl who wants to share some things that have helped me. But always, always turn to a professional if you feel you need it.
So with all of that said, I really hope that all of us, every one of us dealing with loss, grief, anxiety, depression and any other emotion that is making this time of year hard for you, I really hope everybody does have a lovely holiday because we all deserve to. Each and every one of us.
*The contents of the blog are not to be used in lieu of authentic mental health treatment. Please contact an emergency or medical professional if you are having dangerous thoughts.