"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us." ~ Marianne Williamson

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ties That Bind...

The Ties That Bind....

Holiday Blues: 
With the holidays quickly approaching it is a time for us to be reunited with family and loved ones. However, for some this time of year can be emotionally overwhelming for various reasons. It is hard to dismiss the sights and sounds of holiday cheer, so if the holidays leaving you feeling a little bit more bahumbug than like jolly ol' St. Nick, the reason may be attributed to "seasonal blues" or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can set-in and cause one to struggle with feelings of depression during winter months.
Some warning signs are:   

  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of increased isolation
  • change in eating habits
  • weight change
  • Feelings of sadness 
This is caused by hormonal changes within the brain that affect our mood from one extreme to another, especially during the colder months. As we've learned from previous blogs the chemical known as Serotonin plays an intricate part in mood development. During winter months decreased levels of Serotonin production can cause feelings of depression. In addition, the limited amount of access to sunlight also plays a contributing factor. If you or someone you know is suffering from SAD or has symptoms of depression, it is important to contact your doctor or mental health professional. Most of all, remember that you are not alone and seeking professional help is key to start feeling better.

Separation from family and friends:

In other areas, the topic of forgiveness comes up during the holidays. Perhaps separation from family and friends due to a past argument can only add to feelings of sadness. It is definitely a situation that becomes more difficult as time passes, however, forgiving and letting go of past emotional wounds can be a first step to reconnecting with long lost loved ones and feeling happier. I know that this is easier said (or written) than done, but what better time to begin mending the ties that bind you and finding your way back home? Forgiveness and accepting forgiveness are not easy, but holding on to pain and/or a grudge will never allow you to find true happiness. No one is perfect and each of us have been on the giving and receiving end of actions and/or words that have caused emotional wounds at one time or another. This is not to say that  apologizing or  accepting an apology will erase what has been done, but it is an opportunity to free oneself from negative emotions. Forgiveness can come in many forms; whether it be through a written note, phone call, or even just the personal decision to let go of all that ails you mentally and emotionally. It is important to remember that we have limited control over others, so if you find your self reaching out and are greeted with an unwelcome response, know that everyone is different. Time heals all wounds and your courage to move forward is healthy for your own good.

Feelings of grief during the holidays: 
Coping with the loss of someone close to you can be particularly difficult during the holidays. Familiar sights, sounds, and smells can set off a variety of emotions that can overtake us at just about any time. So, remember to be patient with yourself and remember it is okay and normal to feel out of sorts. Mourning is never easy, so remember to allow yourself time to take it one day at a time. Use this time to surround yourself with a strong support system and do not isolate yourself from those who want to be there for you. Whether it is through family, friends, or a local support group find a positive way to ensure you do not go through this time of year alone. This time of year allows many opportunities to get involved with community events that will allow you to give back, whether it's volunteering at a local soup kitchen, volunteering for a community toy drive, or connecting with someone in your neighborhood or community who could use some good company.  Most importantly do not stop living and know that it will get better. Losing someone we love is never easy, but do not lose hope and keep their memory alive by sharing love with others.

Holiday Stress:
I never truly understood holiday stress, until I found myself in a store isle debating for about an hour over decorations for my tree. The debate over tiny fluffy birds or happy little snowmen left me on the verge of nixing the entire "operation Christmas tree." This is when I had to remind myself that regardless of what ornaments graced my tree, it was NOT a life or death situation, nor was it worth the stress. Which is another reason I decided on the bird theme (see picture to the right) to remind myself to not be caged in by the stresses of the holidays and to go with the flow. With that I made a simple promise to not lose focus on the most important reasons to celebrate the season.

Each year regardless of how hard I try to stick to a budget, I always seem to go astray and later on cringe and curse myself when I see my bank account balance. This also results in me scolding myself and vowing to budget better and have more self control. This year I tried something different that allowed me to stay within my budget and keep away from all those pesky "deals" that tend to make me lose focus. I shopped online! It was FANTASTIC! Not only did I find what I needed, I also was able to compare prices to other sites and  not sway from my price range. With the economy taking a hard hit on Americans across the country, finances are tight. Some families barely have enough to put food on the table, much less to ensure Jr. gets that video game under the tree. Whatever situation you find yourself in, know that no gift is worth stressing over or going into debt for. When I was little (wow the fact I even wrote that signifies I'm getting up in age haha) I'd distinctly write the letters B-I-K-E on the top of my list and yet year after year I'd get another B-A-R-B-I-E to add to my collection. Sure, a bike would have probably sent me over the moon, but you know just having something to unwrap and seeing my new doll quickly made me forget about that two wheel request. My point here is that I still survived and Christmas was NEVER ruined for me or my siblings because we didn't get the latest and greatest. What I remember most are the family traditions of board games, my parents letting us stay up late, and watching A Christmas Story (love that movie!). Remember, you can't do it all! It is okay if cranberries come from the can or the pie isn't made from scratch. What matters most this time of year is to be with those you love and celebrate being together.

Here are some other holiday ideas that may help. 

  • Bake holiday cookies and place in festive tins or wrapping
  • Create a frame and personalize it. I personally LOVE homemade gifts. They're sure to always be unique! One year, my uncle gave me a framed picture of my late grandfather when he was a teenager. It is one of the greatest gifts ever received and means so much! 
  • Write a song or poem for the one you love. Print it out on colorful paper and frame it. 
  • Send a holiday card. Getting something in the mail that isn't a bill always makes my day! Every year I send holiday cards with a photo of the U.S. Capitol here in Washington, DC. They're always a hit because they're so unique and it allows for folks back home to have a piece of DC with them. 
  • Set 15-minutes to call a loved one and say hello. Catching up with a loved one can make all the difference! It'll also make you feel great as well. This idea comes from my dad, who every year breaks out his contact book and places a call to say Merry Christmas! This is a tradition that all my aunts and uncles look forward to. 
  • Dedicate a song on your local radio station to those you love! Coming from a small town, this always seemed easier to do, but always so much fun. 
  • A personal coupon book. The person can use this all year long and redeem their coupon for a hug, movie night in, or break from making dinner. 
  • Clean your room, garage, or closet. My mom recently re-organized all my cluttered draws/closet during her visit and I can't tell you how appreciative I am! Not only can I find things easier, but it just reminds me of how much she loves me, enough to brave my closet and shoe piles!!!! It really is the little things.
  • Savings account for someone young. With just $5 some banks will allow you to open a savings account. This is a great gift and way to start teaching about finances. 
  • Make jewelry. You'd be amazed what you can do with beads and string. Another idea is to go through your personal jewelry and find unique pieces that no longer have a partner ie. earrings or single chains. Use these individual pieces to come up with something unique, like a new necklace or broach! One of my favorite belts buckles I have is made from an old gem broach that someone hot glued to a buckle. 
Wishing you all a happy holiday season! Merry Christmas and stay warm!

Big hugs,
Ane :)

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