Beating the Winter Blues and Overcoming Holiday Sadness

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Nothing major happened.  I didn’t get engaged (I’m already married if you didn’t already know ;) ). I didn’t go on a lavish vacation to an opulent international destination, nor did I receive the gift of my dreams.  Yet, I was NOT DEPRESSED this holiday season! **Insert hands raised emojis here**   For the first time in my adult life, I was not down, sad, or depressed during this most recent holiday season.  In fact, it was quite the opposite! You may be asking, “how?”  Well, I asked myself this very question when I realized I was not battling with yet another annual episode of the “I hate this time of the year – the holiday season and the cold winter months’ time of year” show that had been playing on repeat for as long as I could recall.   I also realized I was not depressed during Thanksgiving either.   It was after the Christmas holiday when it hit me, “I’m not sad and I’m not depressed!  I’m actually in total bliss, contentment and a state of gratitude.”  But what changed? How was this possible?

There are a few factors I could attribute to this positive shift I had experienced, down to creating a new daily routine, increasing my self-care, and even being more mindful of the company I kept.  Reflecting on it now, I believe each of these played a significant role in shifting the experience I had this holiday season.  I believe the most impact of them all, was the people.  Holidays seem to have a way of forcing people to be around family members and others that they may not have otherwise been around had it been another random day out of the year.  And yet, we put so much emphasis and importance on these marked days on the calendar.  It’s as if all the other days no longer matter and this grand finale at the end of each year takes precedence over every other experience had throughout the year.  Granted, I am all about celebrating the “reason for the season.”  However, what I do not support, nor condone, is forcing individuals to be around those who may be toxic or harmful to them.  It’s unhealthy.  Period.  I finally realized and accepted my own truths regarding people in my life, while also embracing some new truths about the new life I have been and am currently creating.  

In the past, I was merely going through the motions. I did everything traditionally as I had been taught, yet not a single ounce of joy, bliss or holiday good cheer ever consumed me.  All I had experienced was an ongoing internal war within, as I pretended to be “fine and okay” among family and friends.  This year, something changed.  I stopped hoping and expecting for anyone to show up and hold any space for me.  I started holding space for myself.  I also accepted when it comes to certain relatives, "it is what it is" and that I may never get that warm, welcoming empathetic feel as I had always hoped for as a little girl.  I let it go as I chose happiness over history.  Meaning, I made choices, did things and surrounded myself around only those who made me feel loved, welcomed and accepted, regardless of the amount of time I knew them or if they were family or not.  I stopped going into spaces where I felt I was merely being tolerated and started going where I was celebrated.  This was a game changer!  

By no longer doing certain things out of obligation allowed me to experience a new level of freedom.  Besides, the holidays have never been about gifts to me, rather about love, family and togetherness. I suppose I never quite felt that, until now. I used to be so busy mentally rehearsing what I did not have or how unloved I felt by certain people, that I couldn't see the ones who did.  I realized family doesn't have to be blood related, and good friends doesn’t have to be those you’ve known the longest.  There only needs to be one common denominator - love. I felt that I no longer had to tolerate anyone else's toxicity, feel guilty for moments when I did miss a loved one and was sad, nor did I need a whole army of people encamped around me to feel loved and valued.  I only needed my own love, acceptance, self-care, and to be in the presence of those who did the same for me. 

Making this step was not easy as I battled with a level of guilt and internal dialogue within myself regarding choosing me over chaos.  “But at least they’re still alive, you should spend time with them, etc. etc.” Or, “you’ve known them since you were kids.  Being loyal is letting them stay in your life.”  Yet, each time I went around certain unnamed family members and old friends, I experienced panic attacks, high levels of anxious episodes, depression, and overall, I felt lonely as hell in a room full of people who I either shared a last name with or had a history with.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t have any expectations or hope within myself that maybe one day they would change, and things would be different, nor could I expect them to be the loving, caring and nurturing support system I always needed.  It was time to make a choice.  I chose me. 

I suppose my new daily routine has a lot to do with this.  (Which I will go over in more detail in Episode 02 of the Grow Thru It Podcast).  I completely have transformed the way I live my day-to-day life.  I get up early in the morning, spend time connecting with God, exercise, read and study more, practice gratitude, and generally spend more time with, for and on myself.  See, I realized that I was giving all I had to everyone else, and constantly being left on E – empty, drained, depleted… BURNED OUT! I had no overflow to give.  By creating and maintaining a daily routine, I have ensured that I am well first.  And that whatever I give to others, whether if it’s emotional support, advice, services, being a wife, mom, sister, friend, etc., it should all come from my overflow.  What’s in my cup, that’s for me.  I need that.  It was by defining what it takes for me to keep my own cup full and taking action and being consistent in keeping my cup full, where I was able to create a more fulfilling life; even around the holiday season and the colder winter months.

Self-care is also being mindful of the company you keep.  I doubt had I not had this daily routine intact, which has built up my confidence to another level, would I have had the courage to stand my ground and do what was absolutely best for me.  I am proud of myself for that.  Because in the end, if I am no good, how can I be any good to those in my life?  Beating the winter blues and overcoming holiday sadness is a daily walk.  It’s like living in recovery.  I live each day one at a time and take the days as they come, while consistently doing certain things (through my daily routine) that keep me balanced, well, grounded, and with my cup full and overflowing. 

Below are 6 ways that may help you with beating the winter blues and overcoming holiday sadness:

1)      Be present.  Be in the here and now.  This moment only lasts for this moment.  Embrace it, cherish it, and actually experience it.

2)      Develop a daily routine by implementing tools that will help you to cope with more difficult times of the year and challenging moments of life.  Try this by implementing one tool at a time for a period of time until you have created a habit in doing so.  Once you’ve mastered that, move on to the next one.  Before you know it, you will have created a new daily routine.

3)      Count your blessings.  As cliché as this may sound, practicing gratitude is a guaranteed way to increase your level of happiness and contentment, while also raising your level of awareness to all the goodness you actually do have in your life, regardless of how small or grand it may be.

4)      Don’t get caught up in the hype.  You shouldn’t have to buy gifts just to prove your love to someone.  It’s through your actions and behavior throughout the year that shows how you feel about your loved ones.  Don’t allow the commercial aspects of the holidays to pull you in and make you feel obligated to go into debt just to prove you love someone.  You can show your love all throughout the year, in various and creative ways.

5)      Practice self-care.  As said in the aforementioned, self-care is also being mindful of the company you keep.  Self-care is also about ensuring self-preservation, even if that means maintaining boundaries with certain people, do whatever is best for you and your well-being.  

6)      Volunteer somewhere and/or give back.  It just simply feels good to do this. :)

I’m not saying this is the perfect recipe to beating winter blues and overcoming holiday sadness, but this is what has worked for me thus far.  I cannot adequately describe the relief I feel in finally being able to experience the good cheer that everyone talked about each year.  Not being bogged down with depression, or sadness allowed me to truly live in the moment and be present, while embracing all that is and all that I still have around me and in my life.  Life is to be experienced in the moments.  We lose those moments when we dwell on the past and worry about the future.  Bring 2019 in in a state of gratitude for where you are, what you have and who is there in your life.  Remember, it could always be worse.  Happy New Year!

Love and Growth,

Casandra

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