Acknowledge your feelings during the holidays

By: Angela Ponivas Special to The News Messenger
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The holidays are upon us, and though the season is supposed to be a time of cheer, there are many who will feel lonely and depressed, particularly those who are newly single due to a break-up, divorce or even death. Here are some tips for breaking free of the associated dread: 1) Acknowledge your feelings. It’s OK if you don't feel like celebrating! In fact, you're not alone. For many, the hype of the holiday season is a cover for intense pain and loneliness. Instead of pretending, acknowledge the holidays are difficult for you. Releasing the pressure to enjoy the holiday season can actually free you to discover those parts of the holidays that you do enjoy. 2) Do what you enjoy. What does the season mean to you and how do you want to honor that? What traditions do you especially enjoy? Identify a list of three activities that you look forward to doing during the holiday season. If you have children, ask each of your children to do the same. Over a period of weeks, try to incorporate some of these activities. The holidays might feel different if you do only those items that are important to you and your children. Further, it will help you build new traditions and memories that are meaningful and precious. 3) Try something new. What is something you’ve always wanted to do at the holidays but you’ve never done? Maybe you’ve always wanted to sing in a choir or make stockings for the kids. Maybe you wanted to participate in a live nativity. Letting yourself experience something you’ve always wanted to do can be a small, yet powerful way of validating your own identity and celebrating your unique self during the holiday season. 4) Give to others. One of the very best ways to move beyond your own loneliness at the holidays is to give your time and resources to someone else in need. There are many ways to volunteer with your kids, too, which is a wonderful way to teach them what it really means to give. 5) Take care of yourself. When we’re overtired, we’re more susceptible to depression and anxiety. You can combat this before the holidays arrive by making the time to take care of your own personal needs. Ask yourself what you need right now. Do you need to set boundaries with your children at bedtime? Do you need to plan an outing with some friends? Do you need to begin looking for a support group? Tending to your needs will equip you with energy and spirit as you move forward through this holiday season. Grief from loss is a real emotion that should be validated but this is also an opportune time to identify your true self – your likes, your dislikes, your values, your needs. Take the time for this and you will build a healthier present and future for you and your children. Angela Ponivas is executive director of Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center, which is at 427 A St., Suite No. 400. The phone number is 645-3300.