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8 Tips To Go From End Of Year To A Great New Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With parties for hosting, marshmellows for toasting, etc. Constant images of big warm, huggy, happy families gathered around the fire with a Macy’s-esque tree in the background. This is how the holidays are defined for us by others and I, like most everyone else have bought into it, hook, line and sinker. When my world was flipped on its ear a couple of years ago, it became the most miserable time of the year and marshmallows didn’t help. I spent 25 years married with children. Having other people to take care of was a wonderful distraction to my often suppressed symptoms of complex ptsd and BPD and I gained good feelings about myself by taking care of them. I was the chief shopper, chef, decorator and party planner and I reveled in providing the atmosphere for others. Now, I am single, the kids are grown and gone for Christmas and I am left to redefine what the holidays are supposed to be like. I know that I am not alone in this situation and I am here to offer hope that indeed, no matter what, we can make our own meaning and sail through this portal without having to suffer. There are so many of people out there who do not have families surrounding them.

Then, there are those whose families are quite dysfunctional so that no matter how many people you have in the “celebration”, the feelings of despair can still sink you like a chunk of lead. I have experienced this on a number of occasions. A lot of us did not grow up in a loving, nurturing environment and it doesn’t magically change at Christmas. Sometimes even the thought of another disastrous family gathering can fill us with anxiety. In this case, it’s probably good to develop a sense of humor about the sheer lack of self- awareness that your brother/sister/mom/dad or drunk, obnoxious uncle has about their own contribution to the family broken tree branches. Here’s something to remind you to put the fun back in dysfunctional. Warning: Only for people with good sense of humors! Saturday Night Live’s Dysfunctional Family Christmas Music.  Chortle snort!

So my dear friends, comrades and cohorts, here are some strategies that I have used to stay out of a dark spiral of despair and keep me where the light is.

1. Change your focus. When I am thinking about who left me and what I have lost, I am making myself miserable and guess what, I have control over that! Who is in my life that didn’t leave, who does care about me and accept me for who I am? Who do I enjoy spending time with? Put my focus on them and revel in their love.

2. Stop romanticizing the past. Good lord we all do that, don’t we? When I really think about some of those Christmases that I am now pining away for, I remember the stress and complete lack of appreciation I felt, the rushing around trying to be everything to everyone and feeling like a failure at all of it. The having to sit at dinner with people I couldn’t stand and pretend to be the charming guest. Yuk.

3. Resist comparing your life to others you believe have it so much better. First, we have no idea what goes on in the mind of another person. They can appear to have everything but inside, they could be suffering just like you. Heck, I was probably one of those people that some people negatively compared themselves to with my nice home, good job and beautiful family. I just laugh at that notion now. Even if what they appear to be is true, what good is it doing you to marinate in that vat of misery? Take the energy you are wasting on that and put it into how good you can make your own life, working on your own recovery and planning for the possibilities of the future.

4. Think about the parts of the holidays that you do enjoy and do more of them. For me, it’s been the music so I have been going out to see live music and sing at open mics as much as possible. Maybe there are holiday events you can enjoy like light shows and festivals. If not, get creative and make your own event.

5. Let go of expectations. Christmas is actually one day out of 364. If you don’t feel like drowning in it for 3 months like the rest of obsessed America then don’t. There are no rules about what you are supposed to do or get from others. Take care of and be kind to yourself. If that’s all you can manage then good job!

6. And this is a biggie. Curb your alcohol and sugar consumption. Yeah, sure! The booze and fudge have opened up like a fire hose in every direction. I cannot emphasize strongly enough about the potentially catastrophic effects on your well- being. I have experienced horrific depression and self- loathing after over indulging myself during trying times and it was never, ever worth the momentary “high” it gave me. The crash is debilitating for some of us, especially if we are experiencing life changes that we need to adjust to and in recovery. Use mindfulness, decide ahead of time to abstain or restrict your intake and let others know that you are making healthy choices for yourself. When the impulse strikes, delay and distract. You will feel so good the next day, another experience I have on a regular basis. Once I got through a couple of those, I was good to go!

7. Remember, that blood is the least indicator of family. That quote was said to me directly by Martha Beck herself at a conference I attended while in her coach training. I was sharing my sadness about my family abandoning me and she let me know that being blood related to someone shouldn’t make them family. Family are the people who love and accept you, who will take loving action when you need help. People who do not try to control you with criticism and threats of walking away. I have women who mother me, sister me. I have men who father and brother me. I WOULD like to have a man to man me, haha. And I do have my beautiful daughters and I feel so grateful for them. All their friends are my kids as well and they give me lots of love as I give them.

8. Give to others. That doesn’t mean expensive gifts. It could be a gift of your time, a pot of soup, something home-made that you are especially good at. Last year, I made a bunch of salt scrubs with my favorite essential oils and handed them out. It just felt so good to make something. This year I have worked on songs with a piano player and we have volunteer gigs at assisted living homes. Anything at all that puts a smile on someone else’s face is a gift. That could be a smile on yours.

Here is a quote that someone sent me in a dark moment that really helped so keep it in mind. “Plans change. People disappear. Traditions expire. Release your expectations of the holidays and be open to surprises!” What- ever your circumstances, mine the grace and here comes January like a freight train so hold on!!

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