Today’s guest post is by Mari L. McCarthy. Mari’s a journaling therapy specialist and author. She runs Create Write Now, a website dedicated to all things journaling. The site includes hundreds of journaling prompts, personal journaling stories, interviews, a blog, and many other resources. Mari has published nine books to date; her most recent ebook is Help for the Holidays: 7 Days of Journaling to Ho! Ho! Ho!
Mari’s guest posted for me before at Are you listening to your inner coach or your inner critic?. Today I asked her to write about holiday depression because it affects so many of us. Maybe it’s caused by the the lack of light or the cold weather. Or possibly it’s remembrances of past holidays – whether happy or sad. Whatever the case may be, I hope Mari’s piece helps you, a friend or a loved one tackle holiday depression through the process of journaling.
When the holidays depress you by Mari L. McCarthy
There are innumerable reasons why the winter holidays might not be the happiest of times for you. Maybe the season reminds you of loved ones who are gone. Maybe you're not financially able to provide the gifts you would like to give. Or perhaps the stress of shopping, cooking, and decorating is never superseded by joy in your heart. Maybe the materialism of the holidays that dominates our culture depresses you; or the pressing threat of weight-gain terrifies you; or perhaps you're a workaholic and hate taking time off.
And all these reasons for melancholy only scratch the surface. It's a stressful time in one way or another for just about all of us. Surely most of us manage to keep the tensions to a minimum, not letting them destroy our overall enjoyment of the season. But for some of us, the holidays mean nothing more than difficulties.
Finding peace through journaling
If it's just not fun at all for you to endure this time, my suggestion is to find your peace through journaling. Here are some ideas, and many more are offered in my holiday journaling e-workbook.
- Start in early December and describe in your journal, in detail, your feelings about the holidays. Get as clear as you can about the things that distress you.
- Set aside your inner critic as you journal, and allow yourself to complain and cry fully as much as you're inclined. No holding back!
- Writing out descriptions of your stress points may bring you in touch with deep emotions. Keep breathing and do your best to face these uncomfortable feelings, rather than avoid them.
- By mid-December at the latest, create a plan in your journal about what you will do during the holidays. Avoid giving in to pressures from outside, and schedule activities that you truly want to do. Consider what will bring you close to the joy of this time. If that means taking walks in the woods rather than attending parties, so be it. There's only one rule: do not plan to do nothing. Plan to be at least somewhat active in various ways, because it's a sure thing that hibernating or hiding away will only make you feel worse.
- As the season unfolds, continue to journal your reactions and thoughts about what you experience. Do your best to connect what is happening with the feelings and expectations you described in the earlier days of the month. Are your experiences deepening your soul's responses? Do you find yourself surprised by your emotions, now that you're writing everything out in your journal? Are you getting in touch with greater clarity, or more complexity? By journaling, you progress in some way; you're no longer stuck in the same old same old.
It's likely that you'll want to continue journaling into the New Year, but whether or not you do, be sure to re-read your holiday journal so you can gain appreciation for your brave journey and understand even more thoroughly your personal evolution towards peace.