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With Hanukkah only two weeks away and Christmas and Kwanzaa following soon after, we are officially in the throes of the holiday season. All the decorating, music, shopping and gatherings bring joy for many people, but for others, this time of year can be overwhelming, heightening feelings of loss or loneliness.
If you’re someone who struggles during the holidays, take heart. Some simple shifts in thinking and actions can help you reclaim the beauty of the season.
“While some people thrive on a jam-packed social calendar, you have control over how you spend your time, and you should carve out space for what makes you happy,” NewBridge Services CEO Michelle Borden said. “We don’t have to give in to societal pressures to spend on gifts galore or overpack our schedules, because that only creates anxiety, frustration, and often exhaustion.”
Borden, a licensed clinical social worker, offers tips for managing the holiday season:
Simplify. Write down all you expect to accomplish and then pare that list as much as possible. Setting realistic expectations can spare you feelings of inadequacy and prevent holiday burnout. Attend only the holiday gatherings that have the most meaning to you and graciously decline the others.
Set a budget. Don’t be lured by “deals” you cannot afford. You don’t want to face a financial reckoning in January.
Practice gratitude. Create a daily routine of reflecting on the goodness in your life. You may want to sit quietly and offer thanks, or keep a gratitude journal. “I think of it as exercising our `hope’ muscle,” Borden said.
Reach out to friends and family. This is a great time to reconnect with old friends. Give them a call, or better yet, grab a pen and paper and help revive the lost art of letter-writing!
Volunteer. Opportunities abound. And you don’t have to do it formally: reach out to someone who may be lonely this time of year. Helping others is good for both the giver and receiver.
Donate to a cause you care about. Many nonprofits like NewBridge Services saw an increase in demand during the pandemic, yet lost out on fundraising opportunities because of it.
Indulge your senses. Take in the glowing lights, the aroma of baking cookies, the stillness of a frosty morning.
Eat healthy and limit alcohol. Overindulging makes you feel bad about yourself, and can have serious health consequences. Moderation is the ticket!
Exercise. It releases endorphins, which can lessen stress. All movement counts! Get out and walk, take a class, online or in person, or just turn up some music and dance!
Spend time outdoors. When you dress for the weather, it’s a pleasure to take in fresh air. Go for a walk, or try cross-country skiing or ice-skating. A bit of sun exposure a day helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is vital for well-being.
Get centered. Sitting quietly and taking deep inhales and slow exhales is an instantaneous stress reliever. Close your eyes and let your shoulders drop while you focus on your breathing. Do it for a minute, and work up to five minutes or more. Guess what? You are meditating.
“You have the power within yourself to cultivate a holiday season that you can embrace joyfully,” Borden said. “If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, then you may need to work with a mental health professional, who can help,” she said. Contact NewBridge at (973) 316-9333 or visit newbridge.org.