For some, the holidays can be a time of family connection, collective celebration, and merriment. While for others, this time can be overwhelming, emotionally triggering and lonely. It’s also quite common to experience both positive and challenging emotions during the holidays. Our experiences of the holidays can be impacted by internal and external factors such as our current levels of stress, mental health conditions, financial situation, family dynamics, and local and global social issues and conflicts.
Here are some strategies to promote your emotional wellness during the holidays:
Reflect upon your hopes and values for the season
What do you want the holidays to look and feel like? Are the planned activities and events consistent with your values and hopes? For instance if you value emotional connection with loved ones, reflecting on where your emotional, financial, and physical resources are being allocated can be important. Are your actions aligning with your values or taking you away from them? Adjust as needed.
Make room for all of your emotions
We often have internalized ideas of what the holidays “should” look like such as “happiness, joy, peace, and togetherness.” Recognize that particularly in times of stress and grief, we may be feeling other things. It’s ok to make room for all of these emotions. Let them breathe and move through you instead of sitting with them which can often lead to feeling worn down, anxious, sad, or angry.
When we take time to practice gratitude, emotions like anxiety and sadness tend to fall away or soften. Over time, practicing gratitude activities such as gratitude meditation, journaling, or rituals that allow us to express our gratitude to others (the land, the ancestors, our loved ones), help to re-wire our brains so that we more easily and readily attend to the positive things in our lives. Take time out of the busy holiday season to reflect on what you are thankful for.
Set reasonable expectations
Unrealistic expectations can fuel stress and anxiety. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your limits, ask for help, and focus on what is most important (e.g. family connections). During the holidays we can often get hijacked by the unrealistic expectations we hold about decorations, gifts, meals, and other holiday activities.
Assert healthy boundaries
Some holiday situations are so challenging and triggering that we need to say no or set a firm limit. That is ok! Reflect on what your triggers are and come up with a plan to limit your exposure to harmful people, situations, or activities.
We at LifeSpan Counseling & Psychological Services, are wishing all of you, our local and global community peace, safety, and wellness, however that looks for you! Be sure to take time to care for yourself and your communities.
If you think you may need some support or would like more information, please contact: (708)386-5080