A Christmas Like No Other

Keys for Mental and Spiritual Wellbeing  during the Holidays

By Deacon Jeff Willard

All of us realize that this Christmas is a new experience full of obstacles, limitations and distance.

If you are like me, you are tired of hearing about the “new normal” and long for the old normal. The holiday season however tends to bring about difficulties even during “normal” years. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) finds that 64% of those with a mental illness report that the winter holidays worsen their condition. Add to this the distancing of this year and it stands to reason this will be a rough year.

Professionals call this Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is common for all of us to experience a bit of sadness during the holidays. We often long for a time when at least in our minds, things were better, happier, hopeful.

There are positive ways to address this feeling and this year, more than ever we need to focus on the positive.

Exercise – Physical activity helps us to boost our mood, lower our blood pressure and improve circulation.

Hobbies – If you enjoy crafting or puzzle making, reading or journaling, listening to music or some other activity, schedule time each day to devote to your hobby.

Relax – Take a nap, a bath, or just spend time in quiet prayer. Focus on letting go of the stress and welcoming the peace of God.

Communicate – It is very important that even if we are distanced physically, we keep close emotionally. Call a friend, write an email or letter. Talk to a professional if you feel your sadness is too extreme to handle alone.

Manage your expectations – This year doesn’t have to be like other years in how you prepare, and how you celebrate. Realistically consider how you and your family may start some new traditions.

Avoid excessive drinking – Contrary to popular belief, consumption of alcohol does not reduce stress.

Be grateful – Express your gratitude by doing something for others. You could call someone that you ordinarily do not speak with, to wish them well. You can donate to your parish or a charity. Most of all, be grateful to God that even when times are difficult, he is always present.

Of all the things that you can do, please remember to pray. Pray for your own situation, pray for the parish and our priests, pray for our nation. God is not distant, all we have to do is talk to him.

Be joyful! Yes, this Christmas may be like no other, but with the proper mindset, this could be remembered as a Christmas filled with unique grace and blessings!