Ask Annah: I’m grieving. How can I handle the holidays with confidence, grace, and ease?

Annah ElizabethAsk Annah, Holiday Healing Tips, Loss, Grief, and HealingLeave a Comment

Dearest Neighbor,

The holidays and special events can be a difficult time–period–with additional demands on your time, energy, and focus. Add in grief and it’s no wonder you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.

First, I’m sorry you’re struggling, yet I’m happy for your courage to find the resolution that works for you. Chances are, if you’re here, you want to participate in the upcoming holiday season, but have some serious (and valid) concerns about how you’re going to handle different aspects of the events, gatherings, and your own sanity as the weeks unfold. Please trust me when I say that you CAN do this, whatever it is you are anxious about.

Healing, like Rome, won’t be built in a day, for it is a collection of all those fleeting moments that bring you some peace, a smile to your face, warmth to your heart, or some conflict resolution.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Brick by brick, moment by moment You create healing. Your own healing, similar, yet different from any other person’s journey.[/Tweet]

When you’re overwhelmed and trying to find peace and ease in “The Holidays,” there are five major strategies you can turn to to help you build your own wellness plan and navigate the holidays with a little more confidence, grace, and ease.

Asking for help can be difficult if you’re a nurturer, fixer, or caretaker, but it is a great way to bring healing to all of your five facets. Often times grief saps your energy, which makes everything you do take twice as long. Asking for help lends you a second set of hands and allows you a little respite.

Knowing you have some help will relieve some of your academic facet stress; it feeds your social facet because you are connecting with others, rejuvenates your physical facet because you’re eliminating some stress on your body and you can take more time to relax; it nurtures your emotional facet because you are getting in touch with your needs; and it lifts your spiritual facet because you are connecting with your innermost self and choosing to take care of her.

When you ask for help, you are also giving the gift of receiving. Your friends and family have no doubt asked you at some point to let them know what you need. Think about how you feel when you are able to help another. Allow that for those close to you.

Here are six easy ways to ask for help during the holidays.

  1. Ask a good friend or family member to help you pull out and put up those decorations.
  2. Ask someone to pick up your groceries on her next trip to the market.
  3. Schedule a family rotation for the meal planning and preparation.
  4. Let someone know you need to share what you’re feeling and thinking.
  5. Hire the services you need like cooking and cleaning (or ask for them as a gift.)
  6. If you have children or pets, ask someone to take them for a few hours (or a day!)

Being Flexible helps to reduce mental stress, can eliminate some of your emotional stress, reduces relationship tension, births personal and soul growth because you being flexible means you’ve learned something about yourself and are moving forward in new and beneficial ways…and all of these things combined help heal your physical facet.

Here are six easy ways you can be flexible during the holidays.

  1. Bake five dozen cookies instead of your usual twenty-five dozen.
  2. When you’ve always “done it all,” accept that asking for help is okay.
  3. Purchase customized, printable cards versus doing your Annual Holiday Letter.
  4. Host the holiday gathering on a different date.
  5. If you usually host the gatherings, ask another friend or family member to host this year.
  6. Know that it’s okay for you to modify your planning and action as the need arises. You don’t have to stay for the entire work party or gathering. Make an appearance, and if you feel the need to leave, then give your gratitude for the invitation and leave.

Letting go, like being flexible, can also bring resolution and healing to all of your five facets.

Here are six easy ways to let go during the holidays.

  1. Skip the holiday greeting cards this year.
  2. Put out only your most favorite and beloved holiday decorations.
  3. Write one heartfelt, social media or cyber-based message to all of your friends and family.
  4. Choose a few favorite events to attend and trim the rest from your list.
  5. Accept that you can make new traditions or that the current situation is only temporary.
  6. Cancel the holiday (recommended as a LAST RESORT.)

Self Care, as you can imagine, affords you opportunity to bring healing and peace to each of your five facets. If self care is hard for you, remember the airlines’ safety message: “Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting another.” Self care is your oxygen mask, Journeyer, both literally and figuratively. When you don’t take care of yourself, you become depleted.

Here are six easy, self care tips you can employ during the holidays (and all year long!!.)

  1. Nap when you need or want to. If need be, set an alarm and know that the time spent resting will actually allow you to tackle all you need to do with more energy, thus creating a sense of more time.
  2. Honor your grief; “Plan for pain,” says our neighbor, Ginny Limer of the Scared Sidless organization.
  3. Don’t get depressed about being depressed or angry about being angry…Know that it’s okay to not be okay!
  4. Put ME (as in YOU) on the calendar.
  5. If comfort foods cause you other problems, use them sparingly.
  6. Listen to your inner voice, the one saying “I need a break/rest/help/time out/new way of doing/thinking…

Setting boundaries can be as difficult as letting go, sometimes even harder because your needs may be being ignored or even intertwined with others’ needs. Getting in touch with your own needs and wants will help you to set boundaries that will help you navigate the holidays with a little more confidence and ease.

Another key part of setting boundaries is understanding the differences between “can’t,” “don’t want to,” and “wont.” “Can’t” is un-empowering and  implies that you don’t have the personal means or resources to do something. “Don’t want to is empowering because it is a reflection of you getting in touch with your inner self and knowing what you want and don’t want. If you choose to act, anyway, it is a conscious choice. “Won’t” has a bit of a rebellious nature to it; if you hear yourself using this word, ask yourself what it is you are resisting or pushing against.

Here are six easy, setting boundaries tips you can employ during the holidays (and all year long!!.)

  1. How much shopping do you really want (or NEED) to do? Make a list. Check it twice. Stick to it.
  2. How many parties/gatherings do you really want (or NEED) to attend? Choose your favorites and trim the rest.
  3. You are only responsible for your own happiness. It bears repeating: You are only responsible for your own happiness.
  4. “No, thank you” is a powerful “Yes” gift to yourself. Give thanks for the invitation to be/serve/do and then do those things for YOU.
  5. Be clear–with yourself and others–about your needs, wants, and expectations.
  6. Set SELF boundaries. Know you are as deserving as your neighbor. Honor yourself by getting in touch with your needs and wants. Hold yourself accountable and stop making excuses about why you put everyone and everything ahead of YOU.

Some of these tips change the course of years of routine and ritual, which can make them seem a bit scary and overwhelming in and of themselves. Please know that whatever changes you make this year in helping to balance the celebrations against your grief, that they do not have to be permanent. You can return to doing things “the old way” when you feel up to it. Then, again, maybe you’ll discover a new way of celebrating that is even better!

Here if you need me, Neighbor.

Send me your burning questions. All submissions are strictly confidential.

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