I am not immune to the challenges faced as we walk this thing called life. A few weeks ago I experienced the wonderful blessing of turning 50. And, I produced and hosted my first solo radio show on WPFW-FM’s Inside Out Radio (Please listen to or share my coping with the holiday blues show by clicking on this link. http://archive.wpfwfm.org/mp3/wpfw_161129_140001lmpab.mp3). However, as much as this should be a celebratory time for me, there has also been much angst (I have hives to prove it.) for various reasons. Of course my pondering 50 and what that means and where I am and not today. The many illnesses and deaths occurring within my friend circles and around this world have led to a heavy heart. Disconnect with some of my intimate relationships forms a void. The state of our world and the recent election process creates fear and uncertainty. Not only navigating my personal life, but also working through my professional duties. Ultimately, dealing with trials and tribulations during the holidays can take the funky funks to another level.
We often lose sight of the reason for the season. The holidays are supposed to be a time of good cheer, joy, sharing, and one we look forward to as a way of connecting with family and friends. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of adults say they are affected by the “holiday blues,” and nearly a quarter say they are affected “a lot” by feelings of sadness, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, frustration, or a sense of loss. For older adults, these feelings can contribute to ongoing depression, which affects up to 13.5% of seniors who require regular assistance or home health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And, those in the LGBTQ community face undesirable experiences which include strained or none existent family relationships and judgments, or not being able to be one’s true self all in the name of being accepted and included. Combined with deaths, relationship breakups, work related end of year deadlines, holiday commercialization, how the media portrays the perfect family which really does not exist, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)/winter depression, and financial constraints, these can be additional burdens placed on each and every one of our already potential heavy hearts.
For my radio show, I invited Dr. Diane Kern (Local DC psychologist practicing for over 20 years.) to discuss the holiday funky funk with respect to the LGBTQ community and the community as a whole as this is a universal topic we all can learn, cope, and heal from. Her approach to therapy involves empowering persons to better understand themselves and acquire the tools to heal and make desired life changes, utilizing a combination of cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapeutic orientations in her practice. Dr. Kern’s expressed knowledge and expertise during the show was extremely insightful and valuable as she fielded questions such as:
- What are the signs for one to pick up on if themselves or a loved one is going through the holiday blues? How can we help them or ourselves?
- How can one not included in family events (forced or choice), create their own meaningful and loving experiences during the holidays?
- If we must attend family functions where one knows they are going to encounter someone(s) who will trigger feelings such as anxiety, what coping mechanisms should be tapped in to?
- The holidays are so family focused. What are suggestions for relieving the LGBTQ community of the void and pain (i.e., no children, ostracized) the holidays present?
- If someone is out to their family and desires to engage, how can they navigate interactions if family members haven’t quite warmed up to the news or aren’t accepting at all?
Below are my biggest takeaways for navigating the holiday season. This includes tips to help keep life in perspective on what is most important today and beyond the holidays:
- As my man, Ron “MF” Davis would often simply yet profoundly impart, “What you
fear you create.” If you fear the holidays and think of them as the worst time of the year. Guess what? They will be the worst time of the year. You have the power to create the holiday season that’s fun and uplifting for you and those you choose to share this time with.
- Know the difference between being with self and isolating. Please don’t isolate yourself. Push through the funk and reach out to trusted loved ones, chosen those you can be most vulnerable and let your hair down with. Chosen those who may be going through a similar situation and you can support each other. Build your own communities, families, or tribes. And, create new traditions with them.
- You don’t have to accept every invitation. It’s okay to respectfully decline an invitation if the yes will expose you to pain, fatigue, break your pocket, tempts you to partake or overindulge in unhealthy acts (i.e., alcohol), or you just don’t feel like it. Opt for creating experiences with yourself and with a healthy and like-minded tribe.
- Not everyone has a loving and connected traditional family unit. Not everyone is emotionally sound during the holidays. Don’t assume everyone is in the feel-good spirit. Don’t assume everyone has something to do or somewhere to go for the holidays. Check on your people. Extend an invitation. The perception of a social butterfly might just be that. Folks are hurting and grieving out there for so many reasons. Be a gift to someone.
- We can’t do it by ourselves. You don’t have to walk this road alone. You must look at asking for help as a positive and not as a stigma or burden, especially when you’ve moved from sadness to depression. Also, we must be the “no judgment zone” and stop judging or having people think they are crazy because they want to seek help.a.
- We must understand mental health is real and treatable. This help can come from a trusted loved one, therapist (seek recommendations, search your health insurance list, visit your local mental health websites), support group, church or other spiritual outlets, or mental/suicide hotlines (800-273-8255).
- Commit to forgiving your broken spirit and forgiving others.
- Grieve and heal. It’s very healthy to take the time to grieve when dealing with loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of the ending of a relationship. Even the loss of a job. Don’t try to sweep the emotions under the rug because they will continue to surface in triggering and unhealthy ways. It can be as simple as acknowledging the pain and talking it through.
- Incorporate a regularly scheduled spiritual practice to center yourself from the commercialization of the holidays.
- Attend church. Pray. Meditate. Journal. Or even create an altar to honor loved ones who have passed.
- Be creative. There is so much healing in exercising one’s creativity muscles. Do something you love. Read, go dancing, tap into the kid in you with an adult coloring book, cook, bake holiday treats… Take time out of your daily rituals to do what you truly love.
- Lighten up. Be kind to you by lightening up on yourself and others. Stop being so serious. Take time to laugh, sing, and dance. Even if that laughing is at yourself.
- Take care of your temple. Exercise, do yoga, balance out the big meals with lighter and healthier ones… Movement does a body and spirit wonders.
- Remove yourself from your everyday environment. Travel. Take a day trip. Go to a museum or concert. Hike. Be sure to get some sun, especially because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)/winter depression. Allow yourself time to breathe, exhale, and rejuvenate outside of your normal.
- Share your gifts/talents, help someone or volunteer. By sharing your gifts/talents or helping others you provide meaning to this time of year and take the focus off of you.
- Do not overextend yourself financially by purchasing gifts you cannot afford. You are not an awful person if you’re not out there purchasing the “it” items. Set a budget and stick to it. Sharing your gifts and talents is also appropriate here.
- If you are in the LGBTQ community or have a loved one who is:
- Coming out during the holidays is not a good idea.
- Be an ally for them at family functions.
- All the above and below tips.
- Please be extra mindful of our elders. Because of changes in lifestyle, loss, and illness, the holidays can also be a difficult time for them.
- I repeat, do not isolate yourself.
- LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Everyone, everything, and especially yourself! And, declaring love doesn’t mean you have to do something with or for someone. It’s just declaring a state of mind, heart, and being.
The bottom line is the holidays should be a time of peace, joy, and love. Whether you’re going through it or overjoyed, we must do our part to make sure our loved ones are included in the reason for the season. Even, if it means saving yourself with an all-knowing that you are enough. It’s the BeDoLove way. Wishing you Peace, Joy, and Love! And, here’s to an amazing 2017. Namaste. #BeDoLove #FindYourZen #AllRoadsLeadToMentalHealth
Catch my Inside Out Radio shows I have participated in at:
- November 29, 2016 – Less Holiday Funk and More Holiday Joy – Solo Show – http://archive.wpfwfm.org/mp3/wpfw_161129_140001lmpab.mp3
- November 8, 2016 – Election Day Coverage – Panel Show – http://archive.wpfwfm.org/mp3/wpfw_161108_140001lmpab.mp3
- August 30, 2016 – Various Topics – Panel Show – http://archive.wpfwfm.org/mp3/wpfw_160830_140000lmpab.mp3
To learn more about Dr. Kern’s holiday workshops and other mental health services:
Dr. Diane Kern, Ph.D.
Therapist, Life Coach, and Consultant
Creator of “Happy and Healthy U” Mental Wellness Workshops
“Loving Life and Living Well”
Voice Mail: (202) 928-1522