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Kelsey: Bringing The Light

'The connection with others is what brings in the light.'

Maybe it’s the haunting choral music that’s broadcast this time of year, or the fact I’ve returned to the cold of Vermont after an escape to South Florida, but the holiday blues have struck again. The proverbial magic of Christmas holds some dark shadows for me. I used to feel alone in my seasonal sadness, but lately - whether I’m out to breakfast with friends, chatting with others in the locker room, or standing in line at the co-op, it seems, many people have been describing similar feelings this year.

For some, the holiday season is somber because an important person is no longer present to celebrate with. Others simply feel lonely to begin with or stress under the financial pressure to buy gifts. Some of the faithful may experience guilt if faith isn’t bolstered during this sacred time, while others may feel their particular creed is overlooked with a dominant one so much on display.

In any case, the holidays can leave us with an unreasonable presumption of happiness that often isn’t met. Because of this, I’ve found it helpful to lower my expectations: I purchase simple gifts only for my closest family, and choose to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with positive, lighthearted friends.
People have told me, during the holidays they’ve felt purposeful and connected by volunteering at a senior center or church dinner. Others give themselves permission to turn down some social obligations, while those who don’t feel like socializing at all may spend their time in a peaceful activity such as reading or walking. And this is all okay.

As I look for ways to feel less alone in my own holiday sadness, what seems to help most is to be of service to others by listening to their thoughts on the season.

During this time of reflection, I’ll check with family, friends, and neighbors to see how they’re doing, and to let them know that if they’re feeling down this month, they’re not alone. Because when we reach out, we’re often not just helping others, we’re helping ourselves, too. And for me, in what can be a dark season, the connection with others is what brings in the light.

Elizabeth Kelsey is a freelance writer who specializes in mental health topics. She writes for hospitals and prevention coalitions. Her essays and articles have appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine; the Boston Globe; Eating Well; Runner’s World; and other publications.
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