How to Cope with the Holidays

May Your Holidays Be Happy And Fulfilling!

By Tanya E. Bolton

Guest Columnist

Tanya Bolton
Tanya Bolton, a licensed professional counselor in Columbia, SC, offers ways to cope with loneliness during the holiday season.

The holidays can be difficult for many people, especially those who have lost loved ones, are experiencing financial strain, lack a supportive family or peer network, or are coping with medical problems. Here are a few ways to make the holidays a little happier in case you fall into one of those categories.

For those who have lost loved ones, celebrate despite how you feel. Don’t isolate. Allow yourself to be surrounded by people who love you for as long as you can stand it — then retreat for peace sake. You’ll know whether to keep old traditions or institute new ones. Don’t be afraid to enjoy the holiday in the absence of the one(s) you lost. And don’t avoid acknowledging the deceased in an appropriate and healthy way.

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, celebrate on a budget. Remember that you have to live beyond the holidays.

For those with medical problems, remain compliant with doctor’s appointments, maintain healthy eating, and engage in the activities you feel up to. Maintain your physical and mental health. And don’t feel bad asking others to come visit you if you’re unable to travel. People understand!

While loneliness can be a beast at any time of the year, for many it is amplified during the holidays. Find someone to spend time with over the holidays to avoid being alone. Don’t feel bad asking to join a family or friend or co-worker for holiday dinner because of your lack of family or friends. Don’t isolate.

Be careful. Loneliness can bring unhealthy people and relationships in your life as well as unhealthy habits and addictions.

Loneliness isn’t simply being alone, so be careful who you invite into your life. You could be adding a problem and not solving your issues of loneliness at all. Your best bet for positive, affirming company is sticking close to family, friends and loving church members.

Don’t get caught up in negative activities such as so-called “retail therapy,” which involves going to the mall and engaging in a spending spree meant to make you feel better. Believe me, that only leads to debt and regret.

While excessive spending on gifts can be a downer, doing things that help lift others’ spirits can lift yours as well. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen (something my family and I did during Thanksgiving and during the days leading up to Christmas) or some other community-oriented effort.

Finally, it is important to accept that, despite the fact Hallmark movies paint a fairy tale picture of Christmas, there is no such thing as the perfect or ideal Christmas. Many people set themselves up for failure by expecting the holidays of TV and movie land; our lives are not flawless and don’t always turn out the way we want them to. It is fine to enjoy those heart-warming movies, but it is critical for your mental and emotional wellbeing to understand that is for enjoyment, not reality.

Be real about what to expect when you get together with friends and family. Have a good time. Give people the love you expect in return and accept everyone for who they are. After all, family will be family and will very likely be true to who they have always been. And if they pass your expectations, count it all joy.

If you feel really overwhelmed consider getting caring, professional help from a counselor. A skilled counselor can help you work through your loneliness and find ways to cope and feel better.

I hope these tidbits help make your holidays happy! Here’s wishing you a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life!

Tanya Bolton is a licensed professional counselor and president of Bolton Counseling &Consulting LLC located in Columbia.

 

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