By Lathan Newkirk
ASAP Employee Assistance Program Coordinator
For many, the holidays is a time for love, fellowship and good spirits, but this may not be the case for individuals who have experienced some type of adversity prior to the start of the season. Traumatic losses such as the death of a loved one, serious illness or injury, or loss of stability can have a profound effect on one’s mental, physical and spiritual health. Coping with the negative emotions and feeling generated by losses may be exacerbated during the holidays because of the societal pressure to be happy and surrounded by family during the holiday season. Though it may seem far-fetched, there are ways to cope with loss during the holidays. Navigating the seas of disparity to the island of optimism and serenity can be accomplished by adhering to the P.E.A.C.E principle:
P- Put your needs first. During this time of year it is so easy for others to make you feel as if you should negate your pain for the greater good, so as not to dampen the spirits of those around you. This will not help you express your hurt and sorrow and may have consequences later in the form of negative health outcomes, further isolation, or sometimes even worse outcomes. It is completely normal to feel the way that you do, so take care of yourself and explore those feelings. Do not let others pressure you into participating in events or festivities unless you feel that you are ready. Grief is a process that must run its course and it does not adhere to a holiday schedule.
E- Experiment with new ideas and traditions. This is the perfect time for you to create some new experiences and traditions for yourself while abandoning ones that may no longer feel appropriate or necessary. Consider doing something unorthodox such as going on a holiday vacation, visiting a restaurant for holiday meals, or abandoning the dreaded holiday sweater photo!
A-Allow yourself some healthy distractions. Exercise has proven to be not only an excellent anecdote for physical health, but mental health as well. Flooding the body with natural mood boosters will elevate your mood and help your feel better. Watching a favorite television program, attending a movie premiere with good friends, or catching a live sporting event are excellent distractions to lift your spirits.
C-Community service is key. The sense of fulfillment that comes with helping others in need should never be underestimated. If you have never volunteered to help others during the holidays, whether it be with a charitable organization, community service establishment, or religious activity, you will find that this type of work may not only help to quell negative thoughts and feeling but also give you a clearer perspective on the bleakness of your situation. The sense that you have given back to those less fortunate can elevate you to new levels.
E-Embrace the opportunity to grow. Emotional, physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual growth all have one thing in common: they are all fed by challenges. It may seem overwhelming to ponder at times, but consider how you will grow as a person from your experience. What can I do the coming year to prepare for this next holiday season? How do I want next year to look for me this time? Where do I want to be as a person mentally and physically? Questions like these inspire one to chart a clear path and set positive goals for themselves, which in turn builds on resiliency and strength.
There are a number of resources available to help those who are having problems coping with the stress of the season. Local bereavement groups, medical centers, online support groups, community mental health agencies and crisis hotline such as 1-800-223-8255 (TALK) are agencies and organizations that are there to help someone who is having a difficult time.
Finding the “silver lining” while coping with loss may seem like a daunting task, but it can be accomplished with support from family and community interventions. These resources are vital because typically the person who loses a sense of purpose does so because their emotional grief prevents them from appreciating their surroundings and the opportunity they have to recover and move forward. Positive communication and experiences with others can inspire someone to find optimism in hard times.
Being thankful enhances resiliency by allowing you to appreciate what you have and what you have accomplished rather than being mired down in disillusionment and hopelessness. If you can find thankfulness through adversity it strengths the will and desire to move forward. Disillusionment and hopelessness leave one stuck and unable to see opportunities for happiness and growth.
Finding thankfulness is one of the most important tenants of resiliency. I feel that it is so because thankfulness gives us the presence of mind to understand that nothing in life is guaranteed and that we must find value in every day, even in times of loss. When we really value things whether tangible or intangible we want to protect them and appreciate them. This thought process goes a long way toward helping us cope in challenging times because even if we don’t value our own existence at times, valuing other people, principles, or possessions can help us through rough times and move forward.
If you need assistance during the holiday, call Lathan Newkirk at (575) 678-2112.