Turning the corner on 2020 and moving past the darkest days of winter, towards a time when physical togetherness is on the horizon, and “Happy New Year!” is on repeat, I think it is important to take a moment to remember and reflect. We all have friends, family members, or colleagues who found the holiday season difficult, or perhaps we ourselves were the ones struggling. It can be challenging to find the right words to be sensitive to different experiences and realities. Sending a note to say “I’m thinking of you” can have a positive impact and can help our friends and community members feel our love and caring without placing any pressure to respond. A small token left on someone’s porch can be uplifting.
It is worth remembering that the holidays are not the only times that can be difficult. When we are struggling, the days and weeks between special occasions can leave us feeling alone, especially in the dark days of winter. When we are struggling, it may be hard to reciprocate contact from friends and family. Doing or saying something without expectation of response or acknowledgement is a way to show that you care and give yourself a break too. Try reaching out to someone you care about in between festive times. It can help both of you to overcome the feeling of being alone. What better way to help welcome the lengthening of daylight hours than to spread the sense of connection and love?
We have created #YouAreNoteAlone frames for Facebook profiles as a symbol of hope and connectedness. If you haven’t done so already, please consider using the frame for the remainder of winter to help serve as a reminder that we are all connected, and that our loved ones are NOT alone. Pick up the phone, drop someone a line, and connect in. Help fill 2021 with healing and hope… So when we can finally gather, hug, laugh and cry together, we can be thankful for “the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Marcel Proust).
Here are a few ideas that may help us through times of struggle:
- Nature walks.It is not just good for the soul, but there is scientific evidence that walking in nature can actually help our limbic system process emotional challenges. It is also a lovely way to spend time with a young person who might be struggling to give them a no-pressure atmosphere to express their feelings or just be quiet.
- Find someone to listen. Finding someone who is able to listen – truly listen – without suggested fixes, judgement, or expression of their needs is more difficult than it sounds. While professionals are available, finding a friend who has this skill is amazingly helpful. And for the kids in our lives, this may be a time when an aunt, uncle or grandparent can take a special interest in just being ‘there’.
- A friend who volunteers in pediatric palliative care shared the WAIT concept that she learned during her training. WAIT: Why Am I Talking, is a great reminder for us as listeners to just
- Be creative.Artistic outlets can be very therapeutic. Working with our hands when we are dealing with emotional challenges is another evidence-based approach to help with processing. Try doing something together, like building a puzzle, or something crafty of interest.
- Listening to, composing, playing & singing music can be a powerful tool to help us move forward. Even when we are struggling, or maybe especially when we are struggling, having a dance party in the kitchen with the kids can be a great way to connect and laugh (or cry) together.
- Sometimes it is hard to quiet the voices in our heads, and sometimes we ruminate on things that make us feel bad. Finding something more positive to let our internal narrator focus on can help us move away from unhelpful thoughts. Something simple like, ‘Just breathe’ can do the trick.
For Children: A useful story for children about sadness.
For Caregivers: A mental health resource that teaches anyone how to support people when they’re struggling with their mental health.
For Educators: Tips about building positive relationships with students: