When the weather cools, and the calendar rolls from November to December, one thing is clear: the holidays are officially upon us. For many people — especially kids — that leaves them feeling a bit happier than they might be at other times during the year; they might even feel a rush of excitement. (I know my daughter is bouncing off the walls right about now, hopped up on sugar and Christmas cheer.) But for some of us, the holidays might not usher in the same kind of unabashed happiness. For some of us, they’re a reminder of what we do not have, or cannot have; and for those struggling with addiction, alcoholism, or a mental health concern, the winter season can be particularly hard.
Like it or not, the holiday season tests us. We’re forced to be social when we may not want to be. We are left alone when we want to be held, comforted, or hugged; and we must face our demons head on. Booze and holiday parties and awkward social situations abound. But according to pop singer Kesha, the best way to handle all of the holiday pressures is to start with yourself. To care for yourself.
In an essay penned for TIME magazine this week, Kesha opens up about why the holidays can be so rough for those struggling.
“The holidays can throw you off your game — and that can shake you,” she writes. “When you have a routine, it’s easier to manage whatever mental struggles you may be faced with, but when that routine is broken, it can trigger things you may not be ready to face. I know it has for me. It was during the holidays when I hit a low moment and with the help of my mother decided to seek help for my eating disorder.”
As someone who has struggled with both mental illness and an eating disorder, I can relate so deeply to all of this. The holidays have always been difficult for me, and if I’m being honest, I’m already drowning in seasonal darkness.
But as Kesha shares, the best way to to combat that darkness is by not forgetting to give yourself grace.
“Take a walk in nature,” she writes. “Talk to a friend … sit out one of the holiday gatherings in favor of some personal time. Just do whatever helps you calm down and gives you a break from the stress.”
Of course, that’s all easier said than done — especially during the chaotic holidays, when we feel obligated to be “on” 24/7 and to be doing all the things. But as Kesha notes, “it’s not selfish to take time for yourself”. In fact, it’s imperative.
“It’s not your responsibility to try to make the whole world happy,” she continues. “Especially since sometimes it’s not that easy to make yourself happy, either — even with all the celebrations and gifts and seasonal decorations, foods and drinks.”
So slow down. Stop. Breathe.
And remember that when push comes to comes to shove, Christmas really is “just another day.” In the words of Kesha: “don’t put unrealistic expectations on it, and don’t beat yourself up.” Because at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it.
AMEN to that.