The Holidays are over for 2015 and the New Year is in full swing. And, although the holidays can be difficult, most people experience some sort of disappointment now that routines are “back to normal.” Why is that?
First, with special events/holidays come expectations. Our culture (generally through the media) portrays holidays as magical and so much time and effort is devoted to “building up” the holiday. The stores begin putting Christmas items on the shelves before Halloween! We search for, find, and purchase the “perfect gift” for a loved one and it is received in a way that is less than stellar. We long for time with a loved one and it ends in an explosive argument. We desire that special gift and we don’t receive it. There are also lots of parties and family celebrations. The physical aspect of loneliness is almost non-existent. There are children’s programs, extra worship services, work gatherings, gatherings with friends, etc. For many, there is travel to a hometown or to a special destination.
What can we do about it? Something that can be helpful is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness activities allow us to “live in the moment” and savor the better things in life. Mindfulness also encourages us to sit with discomfort, realize that it will eventually pass, and allow it to do so.
A mindfulness activity that allows me to be in a moment is a “grounding exercise.” I accomplish this be taking time out of my day and naming five things that I can see, four things that I can feel, three things that I can hear, two things that I can smell, and one thing I can taste. Another mindfulness activity that I enjoy is to put something in my mouth (a piece of candy, ice, water, etc.) and then considering how this “thing” acts on each of my senses. What does it look like? What color is it? What texture is it? What does it feel like? Is it crunchy, smooth, cold, or hot? What does it sound like in my mouth? Squeaky, crunchy? What does it smell like? Is there a particular spice that I can identify? What does it taste like? Do I taste those same spices that I smell? There is a lot of information on mindfulness on the internet and many books have been written about it. There are phone apps and YouTube videos that can guide you through mindfulness activities. I invite you to explore some of those and see what you find.
Finally, in this season after the holidays, it is important to be aware of those around you. For people that are severely depressed, it is not uncommon for them to attempt suicide after the holidays. Perhaps they desired a “last holiday” to say goodbye or they, too, were hoping that “things would be better” and are finding themselves in the post-holiday disappointment. The disappointment of the holiday may be too much to bear. Unfortunately, most people who are successful with a suicide attempt do not share that information prior to the attempt. If someone you know indicates that they are suicidal or if you have a feeling that they are in a suicidal state of mind, seek professional help. It is better to be wrong in your assumption of suicidality and the person be screened for the risk of suicide than to be correct in your assumption, choose not to seek necessary help, and lose someone that you love.