The holiday season has always been penned as the happiest time of the year. Every where you look people are jolly, singing carols, making plans to see Santa Claus or just meeting up with friends. Each new day marks a different event or celebration where you are expected to be happy. But what happens when this time of year does not bring you the excitement and joy that is expected. You are left feeling guilty, disappointed, upset and/or lonely.
Laurie Sharp-Page, MS, LPCS, NCC, CWC owner of Cincinnati based Flourished Psychotherapy has five tips to help you mentally prepare for this holiday season.
- Acknowledge your emotional experience. We spend a lot of time trying to “talk ourselves out of” our emotions. Most of us believe that we can control our emotional experience,but that simply is not true. Feelings aren't good or bad, they just are. It takes a lot of energy to try to talk yourself out of a feeling, leading to increased feelings of distress and less clarity overall. Instead of fighting the feeling, just try to acknowledge it, typically it is a lot less work to say “I feel sad” than to try and talk yourself out of feeling sad.
- Don't judge your emotional experience. We have been taught from a young age that feelings have values, either positive or negative. Instead of viewing them as essentially good or bad accept them for what they are. Instead of saying “I shouldn't feel sad” try saying “I acknowledge that I am sad and that this feeling will pass”. Feelings are transient in nature, and they release a lot faster when we acknowledge them and don't judge them (or ourselves). Feelings also give us important information, they help us understand, plan and implement, a negative feeling often is telling us we need to engage in self- care.
- Make meaning out of your emotional experience. This rtime of year can be particularly challenging for those of us who have experienced grief or loss. Often it is difficult to engage in old traditions. Instead of resenting this absence, find a meaningful way to remember and honor them during this season. This can be something as simple as listening to a specific song, or volunteering for an organization that has meaning to you, or creating new holiday traditions that incorporate and honor those past losses in a new way.
- Practice Gratitude. Recent research has shown that gratitude is the seed of happiness. Instead of thinking about what you don't have , think about what you do have. Re-framing your view in this way helps you remember all the positives that we often take for granted. You can even take it a step further and start making a gratitude journal where you write down three things you are grateful for and make it part of your everyday self- care routine.
- Engage in Self-Care. Self- care is always important,but our hectic schedules during this time of year make it even more important now. Self-care can be creative, such as coloring or journaling, physical, such as walking or dancing, social, by spending time with family and friends, spiritual, by practicing meditation or mindfulness, or pampering yourself, by doing a face mask or taking a bath. Also saying “no” is an important form of self-care, overextending yourself will only increase feelings of distress. Check out a previous story here where I give you some other tips for practicing self-care.