FOR MANY PEOPLE, the holidays are a mix of joy and sorrow, gratitude and loss. On one hand are family and friends, and the warmth, caring, and love you share with them. On the other hand are family and friends, and the loss and pain associated with them. Maybe it’s just the stress and anxiety of the season that gets you down. Or maybe you suffer a little from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
You already know that journal writing is a cathartic and healing practice and that it would be good for you to write about your feelings and struggles. Normally, you have no problem writing a little every day, but it’s difficult to write when you’re feeling down or depressed. In fact, it can be difficult to do much of anything when you feel as though you’re dragging yourself through the motions each day requires — and there’s already so much to do.
However, when you are feeling blue, taking care of yourself is more important than ever. Continuing to exercise, getting enough sleep, and spending time socializing with others are all ways to accomplish self care. The maxim, “Fake it ‘till you make it,” is appropriate and can help you make it through holiday depression.
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Another action you can take (whether you feel it or not), is to keep a mood journal. Keeping track of your exercise, diet, sleep, and mood helps you stay present and aware. Keeping a schedule of writing about your feelings and reactions to what is going on around you can help you stay balanced and keep you from sinking into the muck of moroseness.
- Schedule 5-20 minutes each day for writing. Early in the morning, right after you awake, or at night just before bed are generally good times.
- Allow yourself to be honest — and lock your inner judge in the closet. There’s no one here but you, so let it all out, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Acknowledging your feelings and letting them be okay is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
- Start by describing your mood. How are you feeling in this moment? What happened today that triggered these feelings? Allow yourself to cry and complain and rant all you want. This is your time, your space.
- Write about how the holidays and your expectations for the holidays intensify or mitigate your feelings.
- Make a list of small things you have to be grateful for. It’s okay if you don’t feel grateful; simply acknowledging the good things in life is enough.
- Write about all the ways you can take care of yourself during the holidays: taking walks, staying away from or going shopping, spending time with close friends, and so on. Schedule time doing at least one of those things the following day.
- Write a little every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. And as you write, connect as deeply as you can with yourself in that moment. At the end of the holidays, perhaps as the next year begins, look back at your feelings and thoughts during the last month. And congratulate yourself for your courage and any progress you have made along the way to feeling better about yourself and life in general.
Bottom line? Whether you feel it at the time or not, writing will help you get through the holiday blues and heal at the same time. What do you have to lose?