by Melissa DeChellis / Director, Adaptively Abled Amputees
While late December can be filled with joy, cheer, and cherished family and friends, it can also be a time of loneliness, melancholy, and stress. Instead of feeling like Buddy the Elf, you can feel more like Sadness from Disney’s Inside Out or Hermey from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
If you are in the latter category, keep these two things in mind: The holiday blues are usually short-lived, and your misery has plenty of company. The American Psychology Association reports that stress levels increase during the holiday season for 38 percent of us. And the National Alliance on Mental Illness has found that, among individuals with underlying mental illness, 64 percent say the holidays make their symptoms worse.
The holiday blues can manifest in all sorts of ways. Common signs include:
* Depressed Mood
* Loss of interest
* Loss of appetite
* Irritability and/or restlessness
* Inability to focus
If you are battling any of the above, it’s ok—we’ve got you! Here are five ways to keep the blues at bay and find your holiday joy.
1. Set Aside Time for Self-Care
During a time when we give so much of our time and energy to others, it is important that we also remember to give time to ourselves. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by external expectations to buy the perfect gift, throw the perfect holiday party, or host the perfect family get-together. But it is just as vital that we meet our internal needs and make ourselves a priority. Make it a goal to:
Sleep at least 8 hours a night. Rest allows our body and mind to recharge. Be kind to your body, and take naps as needed.
Exercise every day. Whether it’s a brisk walk outside, a home weightlifting session, or an intense HIIT workout, movement is medicine for mind, body, and soul. Ball slams are the best possible antidote for any stress that gets thrown your way; trust me on this one.
Eat well 80 percent of the time. We all tend to overindulge on sweets and rich meals during the holidays. Allow yourself to enjoy those nostalgic and traditional foods, but practice moderation. For 80 percent of the week, make sure you are fueling your body with healthy, balanced, whole-food sources of nutrition. That still leaves plenty of time for delicious indulgences and unapologetic merry-making.
Make time to relax. If yoga and meditation are not your jam, try spending time outside enjoying nature. Take a moment to ground yourself before, during, and after stressful holiday events. Every so often, practice one minute of mindful breathing or count backwards slowly from five to reset your mind.
Treat yourself. Enjoy a holiday-flavored latte, hot cocoa, or apple cider. Take a long bath with lavender Epsom salt. Enjoy a massage. Try a new activity. Find joy in the little things. Do things that make you feel good.
2. Set Boundaries
You do not have to say yes to everything and everyone. It can be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting to please everyone around you—and you never will succeed anyway. Practice saying no. Only surround yourself with positive vibes and people. Cut out the toxicity. If there is a family gathering or work party you really do not want to attend, politely decline the offer. And do something special for yourself. It is never selfish to set boundaries or take time for yourself.
3. Give to Others
Paying it forward to someone in need sometimes helps you more than the person you are helping. The holidays are a season of giving. You can donate to your favorite charity, volunteer at a holiday event or soup kitchen, or spend time with a new amputee. A unique way to give back is to sign up for the MIB Agents Warrior Mail Program and write monthly letters of encouragement to children who are undergoing osteosarcoma treatments. Check out MIB Agents at www.mibagents.org/mib-programs/warrior-mail.
4. Practice Gratitude Daily
Douglas Wood once said, “The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot be thankful and unhappy in the same moment.” Start a gratitude journal and write down at least three things that you are grateful for each day. Then reflect upon your year and your journey thus far, and reach out to those who have helped you and whom you are grateful for. You never know what challenges someone else is facing, and your words of thanks can make a difference in their day, week, or year.
5. Ask for Support
There is never any reason for you to go it alone—not when there are so many sources of support available. Reach out to family and friends, even if you have not spoken to them in a while. A long conversation catching up with an old friend always leaves you in better spirits. Seek out one of the 400 registered in-person or virtual support groups through the Amputee Coalition’s website. If you’d like a one-on-one peer visit, contact the Amputee Coalition’s Peer Support Program. If feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness stick around for more than two weeks after you have sought out peer and group support, professional help may be needed. There is no shame in reaching out to a licensed social worker or therapist to help you to feel more like yourself again.
Melissa DeChellis is the founder and director of Adaptively Abled Amputees, a health and fitness community for people living with limb loss.