Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness, How To Survive The Holidays
The holiday decorations are on full display. The carols saturate the radio stations. Children are making their Santa wish lists. This season triggers both the happiest, joy-filled emotions and the lowest of lows. For some, the holiday blues kick in.
I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression my entire life. I wasn’t formally diagnosed until my last relationship started falling apart and I unraveled with it.
I battled it before when my dad passed away a month after my wedding. I battled again before I filed for divorce. My resiliency kept me strong and pushed me through the darkest moments until my resiliency was depleted and I fell into the black hole that was depression. I had suffered another loss.
My mother died six days after my birthday after a short but horrific battle with leukemia. I was heartbroken. Weeks later, my (ex) Love requested the first “break,” and I watched helplessly as he gradually pulled further away from me until we were no more. After finding myself in a fetal position on my bathroom floor with no memory of the meltdown I suffered and inflicted on him the night before, I reached out for help. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. At the time, I felt weak.
Now I recognize that as courage. But after several months on an SSRI, I rebuilt my strength and resolved to pull myself out of this dark place naturally. My resiliency returned.
The holidays have sprung to life and I find myself fighting the demons again. Late at night, the 3 a.m. haunting when loneliness, remorse, and regret kick in, the loss magnifies and I beg God, the Universe, my deceased parents, someone, anyone, to give me peace again. Panic sets in.
I don’t want to think about my children spending Christmas with their father and stepfamily and not with me. I don’t want to think about my Love no longer wanting me in his life. I don’t want to remember the Christmases of the past when my family was alive and healthy and whole. But it consumes me; I struggle.
I need strength to care for my little ones. I need energy to focus at work. I need peace to enjoy my life.
What helps me most is my positive attitude. I have my weak moments, hours, days, but I bounce back. I have the drive to be well again. It is my nature to smile and be happy. I hate feeling sad. I hate feeling weak. I hate ruminating. I fight my way through the darkness and back to the light. It’s not an easy process but it’s one that is important to my survival.
This is my tonic to ward off the Ghosts of Christmas’ Past.
1. Physical activity. Walk. Run. Bike. Lift weights. Take a fitness class. Run up and down your stairs at home. Drop to the living room floor during your favorite TV shows and do push-ups. Just move. The endorphins will boost your mood. I go to the gym at 5 a.m. every morning before work, run and lift weights.
I take a spin class. I need that intensity to ease the ache in my chest. It regulates my breathing and allows me to refocus on being healthy. After I shower, I feel stronger. It starts my day with a refocused energy.
2. Eat Healthy. Unhealthy eating patterns come too easily. When I’m battling my demons, I tend to alternate between days of starving, surviving on coffee and a banana, with grazing constantly through the day, trying to fill that void. When I take the time to plan and build healthy, nutritious meals, packing my lunch for work, eating something healthy and wholesome every two hours to keep my blood sugar and metabolism stable, I feel wonderful. I feel in control.
3. Drink lots of water. It is a natural cleanser physically and mentally. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
4. Meditate. You don’t need a statue of Buddha or a prayer corner in your house to meditate. Find a space where it’s quiet and uninterrupted. Unplug. Turn off your phone and TV. Close your eyes and just breathe. Deep breaths in, long breaths out, until you feel the weight in your chest lessen.
Let emotions pass through you, feel them, thank them for confirming you’re alive and a person capable of feeling, let them go. Take five minutes, take 10, take an hour. Take what you need to just be mindful of the moment and be one with yourself. You owe yourself that time.
5. Phone a friend. When you slip into the darkness, it’s common to isolate. You are ashamed. You don’t want to burden anyone. You’d rather conceal your struggles than appear weak. But find a friend and reach out. Perhaps you don’t tell them that you’re struggling, but the conversation and laughter will help regardless when you feel connected to someone. Perhaps it’s a FWB. Just reach out to someone you feel good around.
6. Be Mindful. Appreciate every moment. Absorb your children’s joy and share their laughter. Whatever is going on in your mind and world can wait. This is what matters now. They are children for such a short time. Enjoy every moment. Find joy in their joy. They are yours, part of your body; feel what they feel.
7. Do something good for another person. Share your love. Helping others will help you feel relevant in this world.
8. Rest your body and mind. This, for me, is the hardest one. My mind refuses to shut down. But if anything, it’s an escape. Your body and mind need the rest. Practice good sleep hygiene. Wind down before bed. Turn off the TV and all electronics. Dim the lights. Take a hot bath. Read a book. Write in a journal. Melatonin is a natural sleep aid, if you need extra assistance. Give your mind a rest.
9. Find joy in something. A Hobby. A Child. A Movie. Music. Baking. Writing. Singing. Take a class. Find something that brings you joy and do it, often.
10. Believe that you will be okay. Believe that it won’t always be this lonely and sad. Believe that you will find love again. Believe you are beautiful, strong, and worth the happiness you seek.
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