The holiday season is a complicated time, sometimes filled with complicated emotions. We want to be joyful, but despite our best efforts, the feeling eludes us. Perhaps we’re coping with a layoff, the end of a marriage, the loss of a loved one, or the state of the world in general. The truth is, life is not a Hallmark movie, and the harder we try to conceal our feelings in cookie icing and gift wrap, the more they can manifest in unhealthy ways. 

It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to grieve. And it’s ok to be angry with the world. It’s also ok to give space to these difficult emotions and focus on self-care whenever you need to, even during the holiday season.

“The holidays can bring up so much sadness due to the loss of loved one or other significant losses. It’s important to pay attention to what we are feeling to help with this process. At times it’s important to spend some time alone to help release through crying, journaling, etc. At other times it’s good to be around others who love and support us to help us remember we are not alone.” says Susan Lataille, Certified Master Grief Coach, Integrative Health Coach and creator of the book, Shining a Light on Grief, a compilation in which Susan and 10 other women share their journeys through grief.

It can be comforting to realize we are not alone. According to McLean Hospital’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays, 38% of respondents to a recent survey said their stress levels increased during the holiday season, 64% of those living with a mental illness felt that their conditioned worsened during the holidays, and 9% of people in the northern U.S experience seasonal affected disorder due to longer hours of darkness this time of year. Psychology Today reports that at least 35% of people don’t look forward to the holidays because of the loss of a loved one.

Following are some tips from McLean’s on how to make this time of year a little more manageable:

  • Connect with people who feel similarly, or who understand what you’re going through, such as family members, a close friend, therapist, clergy, or coach. 
  • Communicate your needs with loved ones to help them understand how they can support you; sometimes people want to help but aren’t sure how. 
  • Give yourself permission to skip the celebrations. Do only what brings you peace, even if that means spending quiet time at home. If you do want to celebrate on a smaller scale, take time to outline and schedule your activities, and think about how to firmly yet graciously set comfortable boundaries. You can always get together with people after the holidays if now is not the right time. Communicating your plans with others will help manage expectations. 
  • If money challenges are at the root of the discomfort (and let’s face it, money issues can be very stressful, especially this time of year), remind yourself that this is the season of giving not spending, and that there are many ways to give. In fact, sharing experiences with loved ones or giving sentimental tokens that inspire pleasant thoughts – things that instill happy memories – can be much more valuable over time than “stuff.” Handmade presents offer yet another gift you give yourself: the opportunity to slow down, think about your gift recipients, and use your creativity to produce something out of love – all of which can be spirit-lifting.

Other important self-care steps include getting a little more sleep, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking less (or no) alcohol and caffeine, and exercising outside at mid-day to get as much natural light as possible. 

Accepting that it’s ok to feel sad this time of year and reminding yourself that many others feel the same are important steps toward healing. And there are many other ways that SimplaFYI can help. From grief and life coaching to yoga, meditation, nutrition counseling, and more, we offer programs and services to make self-care a priority. 

Want to do something for yourself RIGHT NOW? Watch our “How to Stay Grounded This Season” Discover Event. SimplaFYI Community Practitioner, Mary Hammerstein will guide the way.