Coping with the holidays

Margarete Hahn, BU DAWN Director

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The Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies are known for giving us an image or idea of how the holiday should be. Yet, this can leave us feeling sad because our realities may not always match up to the way the holiday season is portrayed on our television screens.

How do you cope with moments or situations that cause pain, anxiety or sadness over the holidays?

Begin by being gentle with yourself. Allow the feelings to surface and acknowledge them, embrace them if you can. Some students find it helpful to journal or to express their feelings creatively using art, music or poetry. Allow yourself to grieve if needed and cry. Find someone who will cry with you. Savor some traditions if that feels right and, if not, create some new ones of your own. It may be as simple as starting a hot cocoa ritual each morning or taking a walk with friends or family.

Connect with support systems that are safe and nonjudgmental. If these do not currently exist, take a risk and volunteer to help at a local soup kitchen, Women’s Shelter or for an organization or group you are interested in. You will find that volunteering during this time will connect you with others and you may find yourself developing some wonderful new, supportive relationships. If volunteering does not feel comfortable right now, reach out to someone you have wanted to reconnect with or get to know more.

You can also simplify expectations for yourself and others. Research shows that investing in experiences and relationships is better for our overall happiness. Instead of feeling pressured to buy a parent, child, partner or friend that latest gift you cannot afford, give them the gift of your time and plan something fun together. Try not to over plan and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment.

Next, watch how you talk to yourself. Notice when those critical inner voices start to whisper to you about meeting expectations or not being good enough. Instead, take out a notebook and focus on gratitude. Some things may not have gone well today but what things went right? Celebrate those things, name them and be proud. Apologize to yourself when you say something that you would never say to your friend. Be your own best friend.

Finally, know that alcohol and drug use might give you immediate relief from emotional discomfort but, in the long run, it makes things worse. So, don’t fall for it. Rather, engage in some form of physical activity such as walking, running or working out at the gym. Try to get some sunshine and fresh air when you can.

When you return to school after the holiday break, our team is here to support you as well as refer assistance for students who may need more long-term support.

All of us at the Health and Wellness Center wish you a peaceful Holiday Break.