By: Natalie Jean
We're only a few days away from one of my absolute favorite times of the year, Christmas! The cookies, the gifts, the lights and decorations, the movies and songs, families and friends all gathered together to celebrate the season of peace and love. Ever since I was a young girl, I can remember loving every bit of the season; I'd decorate my bedroom in paper snowflakes and Christmas lights and watched every Christmas movie imaginable at least 5 times each. It just makes me happy!
This year however has been hard. I've always struggled with depression growing up and in the last 2-3 years anxiety has been added to the bill. It makes things, things that used to be simple, complicated messes. It's weird and embarrassing and not something I like about myself. Up until this year, it has never leaked into the Christmas season. In fact, that might be another reason why I love the holiday so much. My depression and anxiety dissipate, as if they were never really there. But then as January unfolds and it gets colder and darker, so does my heart.
So that brings us to this year, Christmas 2016. I've been tired and moody and sad about nearly everything. I was trying to ignore it and hide it from people but its rearing it's ugly head. Christmas is 3 days away, but to me its never felt farther. So what can I do? What can you do if you're experiencing sadness, loneliness, or low self esteem this holiday season?
Here's what I've been doing and its been helping in small amounts, but helping none-the-less.
- Don't be defined by it- You're feeling alone or sad or anxious. That doesn't make you any less of a person or any less of an inspiration to others. Don't let your feelings define who you are or make you feel inferior.
- Pray- Calling out to Christ in our weakest moments connects our hearts to someone greater than us. It connects us to God, the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. I believe that He is full of love + grace and ready to hold us in our saddest moments. Leaning on Him and praying for strength, joy, and peace really does help. It reminds us that we're never truly alone.
- Take Care of Yourself- Take a bubble bath. Eat your fruits and veggies and take your vitamins. Go for a walk. Get plenty of sleep. DRINK WATER (this one is something I really need to work on. Juice and coffee aren't water substitutes. Stay hydrated!)
- Find a hobby you love- I've been married and living in a new city for the last year and 3 months. It's been wonderful but also really hard, most days lonely. We moved and I quickly realized that I needed something to fill my free time that wasn't Netflix. I started really pouring myself into writing, art, and knitting. It's such a good feeling when you finish something that you love, knowing that you created something! Find your hobby and get better at it!
- Plug in to a community- whether a life group at church, a group of people in your town with special interests, a book club, or a volunteer group...getting plugged in to community is so important!
- Therapy- I know that it's not for everyone, but sometimes finding a therapist can really help. Talking to someone about how you're feeling, getting positive and healthy advice, investing in a life coach...these are all great options to look into!
- Know the reason for the season- Christmas time is bigger than you. Its bigger than the gifts under the tree or the family that you may or may not want to be around. Christmas is about peace on earth, salvation, grace. It is the season of love! Especially with everything going on in the world, all the hatred and crime and fear, I think its really important to make a positive difference. I've been trying to focus on doing kind things for others, even if I myself am in a bad mood. It literally brightens my whole day when I hold the door for someone and see their face light up in gratitude, or I allow someone to go ahead of me in line at the store. The little things can really make a difference, because who knows? Maybe they're feeling just like me this holiday season. Putting other people (strangers AND family) before myself reminds me that its not about me; its about love and grace and making someone else feel joy.
I know that these tips won't necessarily take away your feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anxiety, but they can help keep your spirits up. They can keep your focus on other people and other things instead of the thoughts that keep that sadness around. You're not alone this holiday season! You are loved and valued and important. You have worth. Christ came as a baby, He was born in the lowest of places to save you from this dark, sad world. He gave up His heavenly kingdom and glorious position for a time to save us, to show us grace and love.
You have a purpose this holiday season. Focus on that true joy. Focus on the greatest gift you've ever been given.