If you find yourself siding with the Grinch in Dr. Seuss' classic story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! then this article may be for you. People often find themselves not wanting to celebrate the holidays or not wanting to be around others for many different reasons. There could be trauma from the past and people or places bring up bad memories that people would rather just avoid. Some people may have strained relationships with family members and have not had contact with them for months or years at a time. Other people may see their family on a more regular basis and truly love them but know that they need to have boundaries set in place and limit their contact with others due to behaviors they may not like (i.e. degrading speech, aggressive behaviors, excessive drinking, drug abuse, etc.). There are others that could be going through the grieving process after the loss of a loved one or a traumatic event that may be affecting them to the point where they feel like they should not celebrate or don’t deserve to be happy. Whatever the reason may be, know that you are not alone. Please also know that there are resources out there for you and there are things that you can do to help improve your mood to get through this difficult time.
1. Make yourself a priority and establish self-care activities throughout the day. This is the biggest and most important thing that you can do during any stressful time. Self-care does not have to involve spending a whole lot of money or going on big lavish outings. It could be simply taking a 5-minute break to relax, turn off electronics, and focus on your breathing. Or it could be listening to your favorite song and dancing to get all of your nervous energy out. Self-care is also making sure that you are getting physical activity, regular sleep, eating balanced meals, and engaging in activities that you enjoy. Making yourself a priority is not being selfish; it is just saying that you are also important and that you need to be on the list as well.
2. Try to stay connected with your support group even if you want to isolate yourself. The holidays usually mean that everybody’s schedules are filling up with different types of get-togethers. If there is conflict with your family, then seek out your friend circle. If there is tension with your friends then lean more on your family. If you feel like you do not have many people in your life that you feel are positive supports, there are activities in the community that you can go to in order to try to make new connections. A few great resources would be your local library, senior centers, nursing homes, recreational centers, and community boards. There are also countless volunteer opportunities available particularly around the holidays that could also boost your self-esteem. You may even surprise yourself with the talents that you discover.
3. As difficult as this may be, try not to compare yourself to others. You may need to cut back on social media or set boundaries with certain people and limit contact time with them. Spending too much time seeing people's pictures (that took 15 tries and are edited to look perfect) and hearing about the perfect gifts and get-togethers can negatively impact your mood. So strive to balance your time and engage in other healthy activities. You may even want to focus on what is going well for yourself and create your own mental list of things that you are grateful for to combat any negative thoughts that you have.
Just remember the Grinch didn’t hate Christmas, he hated what people had turned it into until he connected with that one person and it changed his point of view. There are always resources available 24/7 every day of the year.
Renee Leber, LISW-S, is a therapist with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, 282 Benedict Avenue, Medical Park 2, Suite C in Norwalk on the Fisher-Titus Medical Center campus. She offers psychotherapy services to all age groups, addressing abuse, trauma, adjustment disorders, disruptive behaviors, social and family issues, anxiety and depressive and bipolar disorders. For more about Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit https://www.fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.