5 Ways to Help Your Grinch Navigate the Holidays

5 Ways to Help Your Grinch Navigate the Holidays

The holiday season is supposed to be joyful, but we all know the stress that can come along with finding the right gifts, hosting gatherings, managing blended families that include significant others, spouses, ex-spouses, in-laws and maybe even former in-laws that are, after all, grandparents, and trying to please everyone which is virtually impossible.

Add to all that the emotionally charged memories this time of year brings when important people with whom we used to share holidays are no longer with us. Financial concerns can become more prominent too when we want the holiday gifts and celebrations to meet expectations. And finally the shorter days and less daylight have an adverse effect on many people. Those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can experience some extreme symptoms. Even for people who don’t suffer from clinical depression, this time of year can be very difficult (read more about Holiday Depression: Statistics & How to Deal from Healthline).

I have been accused at times of not liking the holidays. That is not really accurate. I learned years ago how to navigate the last six weeks of the year in the least stressful way possible. Of course that was many years before losing my parents and aunt and uncle with whom I shared holidays all of my life. That was before my cancer diagnosis (read more about cancer & depression) which made me appreciate my own mortality, and my husband’s suicide that ended holiday celebrations as I had known them for over 20 years. And still, I found ways to make the most of the holidays. Although, admittedly I have my moments of despair.

I really try. I start listening to Christmas music when I’m in the car by myself as soon as SiriusXM Holly goes live. I put up the decorations Thanksgiving weekend and even gave in last year when my daughter wanted them up earlier. I attend parties and I’ve throw parties. What I’ve also done for many of the Christmases since my husband died is go away for the week that encompasses Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and his birthday. That’s what worked for us. Being in Chicago is now a permanent escape of sorts, although the holidays can still be difficult emotionally.

The one gift all of this has brought me is a new sense of empathy. While I can at times wallow in the holidays can be difficult self-pity, I can also appreciate that everyone is also dealing with a whole myriad of things that can make the holidays challenging. For people with clinical depression, this extremely difficult month can be even more arduous. If you know anyone who suffers from depression or anxiety or may be grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, reach out. Don’t let people be lonely. Look for ways to share the holidays in a way that is comfortable for them.

If you are dealing with grief and loss this holiday season, read my 7 Ways to Survive the Holidays after loss. If you are dealing with someone close to you that may seem like your own Grinch, pleased don’t judge. They may be fighting an internal battle of which you are not aware. Instead, I offer you this:

1. Recognize that for some, the holidays can be extremely difficult, and bring on enormous sadness.

2. Understand these feelings are real and like depression at any time of the year, can’t be willed away.

3. Help your friends and loved ones avoid social isolation. If big celebrations are overwhelming for them, find other smaller ways you can socialize and stay connected.

4. Don’t pressure them to do things they find uncomfortable, but do encourage self-care (meditation, massage, exercise) to cope with stress, and to seek professional assistance (therapist, doctor) if needed. And of course, if someone is suicidal (there’s no harm in asking them if they are!) contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or call 9-1-1. Do not leave them alone.

5. Be present for them, let them talk. Don’t feel you need to solve their problems (you can’t); just listen, and make sure they know you care.

Here’s to making the best of the holiday season for everyone including the Grinch!

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8 Things I’m Thankful for this Holiday Season

8 Things I’m Thankful for this Holiday Season

As Thanksgiving weekend 2019 came to a close and I looked to embrace this holiday season, I’m reflecting on all that for which I am grateful…

  1. Being the mom of a college student (which I would add is exceedingly better than being the mom of a high school student). I appreciate our independence, but also that she still needs me and wants me to be part of her life. I like the way our relationship has evolved in the last couple years that I can now truly count her among my best friends.  And of course I was truly grateful to have her home with us for the long weekend and spending even more time together over the winter break.
  2. Having Chicago connections. I had dinner with a friend from New York last week who was in visiting family in the suburbs. We discussed how I was getting along since the move. He told me it took him a while to make friends when he made the move from Chicago to New York about 25 years ago. I am grateful for the groups that welcomed me like the Lakeview Rotary, The Transition Network, Professional Women’s Club of Chicago, and of course a number of running groups, all of which have helped me develop a sense of belonging here.
  3. A place to go and something to do. My first fall here was difficult. WIth my daughter living on campus, I was living alone. Kurt was an hour away in the northern suburbs and mostly we only saw one another on weekends. Working from home added to my loneliness, especially once the weather started getting cold and I wasn’t getting outside as much. I am grateful for my job at Fleet Feet (they’re hiring!) where I’ve now been employed part-time for close to eleven months. Yes, it provides added income, but more than that, it got me out of the apartment and doing something productive with other people.
  4. Holiday Party invitations! No further explanation needed (see #2 & 3)
  5. Running. It’s still keeping me sane (for the most part lol) and like my experiences in New Jersey, finding that sense of belonging here in my new city had a lot to do with making connections and friends in the running community. I also got a great self-esteem boost Thanksgiving weekend when I placed in my age-group (first time in Illinois) in not just one, but two, Turkey Trots (a 5k and a half marathon).
  6. New Jersey friends that keep in touch. I love life in Chicago, but I will never stop missing some of the very special people I left on the East Coast. I am grateful for those that keep in touch beyond social media. In 2020, a year I’m planning absent of FaceBook (more on that to come), I’m going to make sure I text more and call more, and remember to send personal birthday greetings and put more effort into cultivating those special friendships that shouldn’t be sacrificed by distance.
  7. My family. Although far away, for “being there” still. I got a lovely Thanksgiving greeting from my sister in Ireland to start the day on Thursday that meant all the world to me. Knowing that I can reach out – or jump on a plane – and be welcomed has made life without my (adoptive) parents much less sad.
  8. And of course, Kurt. For so many reasons, not the least of which is the security of a roof over my head and the joy of spending more time together and planning our future. It can also be very demotivating to run alone all the time. 🙂IMG_2372.JPG
Five Years

Five Years

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. I’ve written a lot about suicide in this blog (use “search” to the right to bring up everything). I also wrote something about Chris, too (read “His Story” here).

You know how sometimes the first thing that comes to mind, is the most accurate and best account of a feeling or a memory? Read more

How do we talk about suicide?

How do we talk about suicide?

This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week and Tuesday, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day.  Since I started this blog as part of my healing after my husband’s suicide, I have made it a point to acknowledge this week every year. Last year’s post provides links to the others as well as wealth of resources.

Suicide is a difficult subject. It was difficult for me to navigate in the hours, days and weeks that followed my husband’s suicide almost five years ago. It was difficult for us to tell others; it was somehow different than telling people he had died of cancer or a sudden heart attack or in an accident. But why? Because of stigma around mental illness for sure. But seriously, why? Read more

Waiting on Mental Healthcare

Waiting on Mental Healthcare

This is the “to be continued” from my April 22 post, “An explanation, not an excuse” as well as the rant about health insurance that I also promised in that post. 

 

Running in Circles and Getting Nowhere (TheCauseCoach, October 2018) outlines the beginning of my health insurance issues since I moved out here. My “low-income” due to minimal effort in building my business in New Jersey as I was preparing for my move last summer (and totally disregarding any income from the sale of my home) left me eligible only for Illinois Medicaid.  I thought I should just be able to “transfer” my health insurance purchased through the ACA from NJ to IL; that can’t be done apparently. Read more