By Sarah Ingram
By Sarah Ingram
Raise your hand if you feel stressy and depressy and not holly and jolly?!
If you’re feeling all. of. the. stress. this holiday season, let me start by saying you are not alone. Not even a little. I’m over here trying to watch YouTube videos to make my wrapping paper not look like a T-Rex wrapped it, and then running to the store to buy ten gift bags, instead. I’m opting for giant charcuterie boards to serve guests, because I can totally handle a giant Lunchable. And honestly, I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime with a cup of tea and a book almost every night this week. If you’re finding that your calendar is too booked, your bank account is feeling pressured, and you’re drowning in how to navigate all the social gatherings–– keep reading onto the next section.
However, if you're unable to travel home for the holidays, and most likely due to Omicron, hang in there! You're ALSO not alone. The holidays can dredge up a lot of stress and trauma. We hope that wherever you are, you are safe, taking care of your health, and hopefully able to use this isolation as a buffer from potential familial triggers. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, please refer to these resources for guidance:
Holiday Coping for Trauma Survivors
SAMHSA: Recognizing Holiday Triggers
NAMI: Maintaining Mental Health during the holiday season
There are two sides to isolation. For some, it's a relief from social pressures. For others, it can mean increased loneliness. A 2021 Harvard survey discovered that 43% of young adults reported increased loneliness since the beginning of the pandemic. Studies have shown that a lack of social connection can negatively impact your physical health, including an increase in inflammation in the immune system. If you or a loved one is struggling with isolation, please know you are not alone. Text HOME to 741 741 for free, 24/7 anonymous text support from a Crisis Counselor. You can also refer to these resources for more information:
Social situations are hard. The holidays bring an influx of gatherings with people we may not always interact with, making it that much more stressful. Even if these are friends and family members you connect with often, this season may be a trying one for you for other reasons. If you’re feeling anxious over an event, please keep these few tips in mind:
1. It’s okay to set a boundary and keep it, even if others don’t agree or understand. Boundaries are in place to protect your peace, health, priorities, etc. I used to feel selfish when I set boundaries, and would immediately cave when I received any type of pushback. Now I know that taking care of me doesn’t mean "me first," it means "me, too." It’s an old adage that you can’t pour from an empty cup, but how very true––especially during the holidays. Keep in mind that setting a boundary may make others uncomfortable, but there is always a kind, respectful way to express your personal boundaries so others understand.
2. It’s okay to leave early, opt out, or even create new traditions. What once worked, may not be fitting for this season, and that’s okay. This year we decided to travel to Ohio for new scenery, and to connect with other family. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate- you choose what works best for you.
3. Bring a water bottle. Okay, as elementary as that sounds, I’m 100% serious. Being away from our normal routine can leave gaps in nutrition and hydration. Get ahead of the curve and bring your own water. I like to text my sister at least 1-300 times a week and ask if she’s staying hydrated? She’s usually annoyed at me, but to this day, she never forgets her daily water. Consider me your big sis for the day, “bRInG yOuR wAtER bOtTle!”
Holidays make grieving especially painful. I wish that our loved ones we lost could visit during the holidays; how magical that would be. If you’re grieving this year, please give yourself grace.
1. Grief is not linear. Saying that once again for those people skimming; grief is not linear. We don’t experience it in one day, one week, one month, one year. We experience it as we go, randomly and intentionally, and sometimes, right in the middle of the grocery store on a Tuesday.
2. Tears are not a problem. Take the time to connect with a friend, family member, loved one, who understands and empathizes with what you are enduring. It is healthy to cry, and lean on others for support during these times.
3. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. I’ve said this a thousand times to myself this year as the pressure increases day-by-day. We don’t have to continue traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed, exhausted, and empty. Find a new tradition that fills your cup right to the brim (plus ten points if it includes hot tea, hot cocoa, or another yummy drink).
You are not alone.
I know you may feel isolated and alone, but trust that you are connected with so many others just like you. It is usually hard to strike up a conversation about feelings of isolation, grief, depression, and anxiety, but you will find that so many others are feeling the same way as yourself. I always say that vulnerability begets vulnerability; if you open up, so will they.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, unless you’re grieving, or stressed, and then it can truly be one of the most difficult. That’s okay, friend. You have a path set before you that you can’t even imagine how beautiful it is. The holidays amplify our grief and stress, but that does not mean they define who we are, or what our purpose is.
If your laundry is not finished,
If your beds are not made,
If the presents are not bought or wrapped,
If the food is not prepared,
If the gingerbread houses are not assembled,
If the Elf on the Shelf has not moved,
If you haven’t baked any cookies,
If you haven’t had any professional photos taken-
You did enough.
You are enough.
This season is not about what you can accomplish on a never-ending, holiday To-Do list.
Enjoy the season right where you are at. Heal. Honor your emotions. Connect with others. Sip a cup of tea, breathe.
Hi, friends. My favorite titles I hold are "mama" and "wife." I live in the beautiful state of Colorado, chasing my toddler and my dreams. I traded in my degree in Journalism so I could attend Motherhood University. I anticipate this will be a lifetime of education. I like bad puns, and every Dad joke there is. I’m a firm believer that what mom’s need most is their mental health, so we can show up authentically for our babies. It is my passion to write and forever learn how to be a better mother, for myself and others.