It’s that time of the year again…holiday time! The music is playing on the radio, the stores have the holiday decorations up enticing shoppers, bright-coloured lights and holiday scenes adorn homes and front yards, and signs of the winter holidays are scattered throughout the workplace.
What thoughts go through your head when you hear “that phrase” and see those decorations? What emotions come to the surface? Are you overcome with enjoyment, warmth and excitement? Or are you absorbed with stress and anxiety?
Sometimes the holidays come with feelings of sadness or loss, with reminders of what is missing. At one point during this time, you might feel all of these emotions.
How do we manage these emotions? How do we take care of ourselves during the holidays?
The first piece is to identify what you are experiencing. The next is to take a step back and breathe. Remember if you are not breathing, you are not calm, and everything will seem overwhelming. After you feel yourself calming down, try and pinpoint and name the emotions you feel. Allow your emotions to speak to you and listen to what they say so you can move forward. It does not help your mental health to ignore the emotions and feelings. Doing so increases anxiety and discomfort, because the emotions will continue to rise to the surface, overflowing until you find yourself drowning in them.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), here are five suggestions to help you get through the holidays:
- Don’t shun your emotions. Identify and validate them.
- Provide compassion for yourself. Watch if you are being hard on yourself or blaming yourself and instead be sympathetic to your suffering. Talk to that part of yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.
- Remind yourself that emotions are temporary
- Set limits and boundaries. Don’t let yourself be abused. We can all learn to do this even though it is never easy. You can say for example, “If you continue to criticize me, I will have to leave.”
- Try new approaches. Family members often get stuck in roles. By taking the high road, you get back some control.
We can’t stop the holiday season from coming. It arrives whether we want it to or not, so dreading it is not a successful strategy. It is important to be aware of your holiday blues, such as financial stressors or personal stressors. Instead of focusing on these aspects, look for the pieces that bring you joy and happiness. You want to enjoy them and be present. Take steps to prevent the stress or the sadness that in the past accompanied the holidays.
With some planning and positive thinking, you can take back the holiday happiness! So, begin baking or whatever traditions contribute to your joy and happiness and put them into action. Bring life and spirit back into your holidays!
About Dr. Alyssa Weiss
Alyssa Weiss, Ph.D., LMFT, CCPT completed her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy and is currently a Florida Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP). She is a full-time professor at Yorkville University in the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program. Outside of academia, she has served in a variety of functions supporting mental health including private practice, program development, and program consultation. She has presented at a local, regional, national and international level, as well as, been published on myriad topics, including the therapeutic process. Dr. Weiss holds advanced training in Traumatology, certification in Hypnotherapy and is Level 1 IFS trained. She is a column editor for the Humanistic Counselor and serves on the editorial boards for Journal of Human Services, Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, and Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation. She has also developed curriculum at the masters and doctoral level.