Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Happy holidays for all?
The holiday celebrations are in full swing. There is Christmas movie after Christmas movie on TV and they all have a happy ending. The radio stations have a rotation of jubilant Christmas music that plays daily. Stores and malls are all joyfully decorated and there are Christmas lights and trees everywhere we look as we travel around town. Friends and family gather for dinner and parties all season long. All of these things are part of our celebration of the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, for some, this isn’t such a wonderful time of the year. It’s a time that brings back sad, painful and sometimes horrific memories of abuse that happened behind closed doors in one of those decorated homes. Or it’s a time that brings extra stress and anxiety trying to see how we fit into the mold of what we perceive to be a perfect Christmas.

As you go about your holiday shopping and daily life, you will come in contact with many people – friends, family members, teachers, retail workers, even strangers you pass as you walk down an aisle. It may be the merriest time of the year for some, but it’s the saddest, loneliest, most stressful, most heartbreaking for so many others. Underneath all the cookie baking and carol singing, many have experienced a year where everything felt the worst — relationship conflict, family drama, job loss, grief over the loss of a loved one, illness, financial difficulties — and the holidays seem to only magnify those struggles. While a smile might be plastered across their face, in reality they are at their breaking point and barely holding on. We all live such busy lives; however, let’s not get so busy that we stop being patient or caring and stop showing kindness. Often the best thing you can give anyone is a smile and kind word.

One of the best things you can do to support someone who is going through a hard time is just to show up for them. What does that mean? It can be sending a text message or a card letting them know you are thinking of them. It can mean taking them a meal. Maybe you can go sit with them and just watch a movie. If they need to talk, be a listener, not offering unsolicited advice nor trying to “fix” them. Just being present and letting them know you care can mean the world. Often, it’s the little things that mean the most.

If it’s not feeling like the happiest time of the year to you, know you are not alone. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. It is possible to find peace and joy during the holidays with a little planning ahead. You may find it helpful to seek out communities you feel a connection with, such a social group or church. Many have online sites and support groups where they can offer support and companionship. If you are feeling stressed and alone, it may help to reach out to a friend. Volunteering to give back to others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your relationship base. Consider offering to help at a food bank or homeless shelter or maybe just bake and drop off goodies to friends. Remember to make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

If you are struggling this holiday season, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers a free and confidential HELPline at 256.716.1000. We also have a local Jackson County office where we provide services to victims of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. You may reach that office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. Please reach out.

-Teresia Smith

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