Specifically during the winter holiday season, it is imperative to seek out those most vulnerable in the community and help them. Whether they are children, disabled, sick, or the elderly, they all appreciate the help as well as the company. Let us not forget the newly recovered addicts and alcoholics; holidays can be a very precarious time with families and parties everywhere.
Never underestimate the power of listening, caring, or bringing laughter into the room; sharing love through these actions can transform lives, including our own.
When coming up with ways to help your community, remember your gifts; this is where your actions will really make a difference if they truly come from the heart. For example, if you are a chef, prepare an exquisite meal for the homeless. If you are an artist, go draw family portraits at the local senior centers. If you work in marketing, organize a public relations event, and do a pro bono project to create awareness for your favorite charity. The list is quite endless.
The point is, to grow along spiritual lines, ever reminding us to utilize our gifts, to share them, and to give of ourselves as much as we are given. At least, that’s the philanthropic theory that has been shared and suggested to me to follow not only during the holidays but the whole year through.
If you are at a loss, here is a good-sized list to get you thinking:
- Help a senior with errands and transportation
- Visit with or invite a senior to dinner for the Holidays
- Help with medication expenses
- Bring entertainment to a senior or community center
- Culinary, etc.
- Help an elderly person care for their pet
- Create holiday dinner baskets
- Organize a holiday-themed game night for seniors at a local community center
- Offer to help aging adults or disabled people decorate their homes for the holidays or to just zhuzh* the kitchen or guest bathroom for entertaining.
- Coordinate a holiday gift exchange in a nursing home or an assisted living facility
- Host a holiday craft workshop for the developmentally challenged to create handmade decorations or gifts
- Organize a group of volunteers to shovel snow or clear leaves from the yards of elderly neighbors
- Offer to teach a senior how to use technology, such as video calling, or implementing smart devices in their home for safety or to simply just connect with loved ones during the holidays
- Coordinate a holiday card campaign where individuals send personalized cards to sick children in need of cheer
- Create a memory keepsake by assisting a senior friend in organizing and labeling photographs
- Organize a holiday sing-along for a community center, bringing together a group of carolers
- Offer to help seniors with their holiday shopping, whether it be in person or online
Holidays and mental health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “The truth is that, for many, this can actually be the most difficult time of the year. In 2014, NAMI found that 64% of people with mental illness say the holidays make their conditions worse. A 2021 survey showed that 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays,”.
Should you find yourself feeling lonely or anxious about the holidays, you are certainly not alone. Here are a few steps NAMI suggests as a means to assist in coping with the wave of emotions:
- Accept Your Feelings
It’s okay to feel happy; it’s okay to feel sad; it’s even okay to feel both happy and sad. Give yourself compassion and allow yourself to sit with whatever you’re feeling.
- Maintain Healthy Habits
Maintaining healthy habits like going to therapy, getting enough sleep, and exercising are critical to keeping your mental health on track.
- Set Boundaries
People like to be generous during the holidays, but that generosity doesn’t have to come at the expense of having healthy boundaries. If hosting an event or buying an expensive gift is too stressful, saying no is okay. It’s also okay to limit the time you spend with family that you may have a complicated dynamic with.
- Make Time to Connect
- Don’t Rely on Drugs and Alcohol
- Soak Up the Sun
- Set Realistic Expectations (but do not plan the outcomes!)
According to another, more recent poll by the American Psychological Association, “U.S. adults are feeling joyous but overwhelmed this holiday season (2023), as nearly nine in 10 (89%) say that concerns such as not having enough money, missing loved ones and anticipating family conflict cause them stress at this time of year.
While nearly half of U.S. adults (49%) would describe their stress levels during the traditional U.S. holiday season between November and January as “moderate,” around two in five (41%) said their stress increases during this time compared with other points in the year. While stress appears to be common at this time of year, 43% said that the stress of the holidays interferes with their ability to enjoy them and 36% said the holidays feel like a competition,”.
It’s important to prioritize self-care during this time by setting realistic expectations, practicing stress-reducing strategies like mindfulness or journaling, and seeking support from loved ones or mental health professionals. Remember, it’s okay to take breaks, say no to certain events or traditions, and prioritize your mental well-being. Taking good care of yourself just might be the best gift you can give during the holiday season.
The holiday season can bring a whirlwind of emotions, and for individuals with mental health challenges, this time of year can be particularly challenging. Increased social obligations, financial pressures, and the expectations of holiday cheer can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
What are you doing to give back to the community?
In conclusion, although the lights and sounds of the holidays seem joyful, for some, they are not for others. We have learned so much more about mental health since the pandemic, thus we should try to be more empathetic and understanding of those who do not seem so “cheery” this time of year and instead offer our time and grace. May peace and everlasting love be with you always, especially during the holidays…