December can be a wonderful time of the year. Summer starts, and the warmer weather invites more people outside, to play and to be more active, which we know can improve mood. In addition, social invitations tend to come thick and fast as the festive season gears up and the working year winds down. As most of us look forward to a summer break, spending time at the beach and catching up with family and friends, it’s hard not to smile and feel happy.
At the same time, however, Christmas and this time of year more generally, are not always Hallmark card happy for all of us. For some, unfortunately, this time of year highlights the fact that family and relatives, loved ones and friends are actually somewhere else. If you’re away from home and, therefore, away from those who’re important to you this can be a lonely and even sad few weeks.
And so today I’d like to offer some simple but hopefully effective strategies for managing the months of December and January; and as a result, some tips to help you enjoy the final period of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 as much as possible.
To begin with, if you are feeling homesick, sad, lonely or distressed in any way, acknowledge these emotions for what they are; normal and appropriate given the circumstances. This doesn’t mean you should wallow in self-pity or curl up in a corner and cry; but it does mean that being away from loved ones and missing them shows you care (and that you’re cared for) and that caring can sometimes be difficult. Try not, therefore, to fight or deny unpleasant emotions. Rather, try to accept them and then try to utilise the following strategies as best you can.
Work out what’s best for you. For some, a quiet day or week at home alone might be wonderfully relaxing. Yes, it might be a bit lonely; but if you quite like time on your own and if you’ve had a busy year then some down time for rest and recuperation might be just the ticket. That being said, if you think you’d just become morose and depressed, then be proactive. Ask around to see if any friends or colleagues might be open to having you join in their family celebrations. Along similar lines, if you know of any others who’ll be on their own then get them all together and create your own festive family. It obviously won’t be exactly the same as being with your “real” family and friends; but it could even be more fun in a new and different way.
Another idea worth considering is using this time to do some good for others. This is obviously a difficult time of year for many people, including the homeless and those who’re experiencing financial difficulties. As a result, many charities who provide services, such as Christmas lunches, would love an extra pair of hands and a caring heart. Volunteering has been proven to benefit the giver as much as the receiver, so this might be a different but powerfully meaningful way to enjoy Christmas and make a real difference in the lives of others.
To be honest, I’m not sure what might help you manage homesickness during this challenging period; because different things will work for different people and I obviously don’t know you well enough to determine what might help you. But what I do know is it doesn’t have to be miserable and there are things YOU can do to navigate the next few days and weeks as best you can.
So given the realities of your situation – imagine your best possible festive season, determine what you can do to make this a reality, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you need it and remember, one of the best ways to be happy is to help someone else be happy!