Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
For many people, the holiday season means good cheer, family get togethers, celebrating our most important relationships, enjoying good food and companionship. But for some, the holidays can be a struggle because of challenging situations.
Here are three challenging situations for which my colleague Lisa Brookes Kift gives recommendations to manage them as well as possible.
1. Holiday season less-than-ideal family get togethers
These possibly involve conflict, unresolved issues, substance abuse and often emotional pain.
If you are dreading your holiday gatherings, this can cause a lot of anticipatory worry and unease about the events to come. You may be thinking that holidays are stressful & wishing they would pass quickly.
What to do
a. Make a plan for how you will handle difficult situations if they arise. Anticipate and plan for how you’d like to respond, especially by imagining yourself being true to your integrity and core values. For example, repeatedly rehearse in your mind’s eye staying moderate, kind or strong in response to difficult people or events.
b. Set boundaries for yourself and stay committed to self-soothing and self-care in ways that work for you. If things get heated, avoid getting pulled into the vortex by politely excusing yourself and stepping outside for a few deep breaths of fresh air or going for a short walk. People often regress to earlier, reactive ways of coping when with family. It’s important to remember that you have a choice. If it really gets bad, you can leave. If there is a lot of negativity it can be easy to miss the good that exists somewhere. Don’t let your negativity bias keep you from noticing things that are positive, like special connections with particular people apart from the problematic one(s).
c. Take in the good, it exists somewhere. Put the focus on small, positive things in the present moment. Use positive self-talk as an effective stress management tool.
2. You are alone and the holiday season is a painful reminder of your isolation
Loneliness is practically an epidemic of sorts in our country. Disconnection and not feeling a “part of” can be very distressing for us, because we are wired to connect. Remember that family is what you make it and doesn’t necessarily need to be of blood or in name.
What to do
a. Seek family in your friendships or community. Build support with people who care about you. If you have recently moved or struggle to present yourself to others for possible connection, make an effort to find others you can relate to. There are Meet-up groups created just for this in many communities. There are many people out there like you, but you must put yourself out there. If this is too difficult for you, consider counselling to free yourself from whatever blocks you.
b. Seek out the good. Train yourself with deliberate practice to look for what’s good. It’s there somewhere, though maybe hard to see at first. Keep looking and you’ll be sure to find something.
c. Practice self-care in the ways that have meaning for you.
3. You are grieving the loss of a loved one
Grief has many faces and is a multi-faceted response to loss. The holidays can be very painful for those who are still in the process of grief.
What to do
a. Seek support. Whether it’s family, friends, or your faith, it’s helpful to be able to lean on something or someone. The holidays are triggers for many who are grieving, so you might see if you can find a support group in your area or contact online grief counselling. Find a charitable organization to help someone else as a way to bring about the positive emotions associated with altruism.
b. Be gentle with yourself. Do things that feel good and are soothing. If you feel lost in your grief or stuck in a sense of mourning, counselling might help you.
No matter what meaning you currently attach to the holidays, be mindful of how can do them in the best way possible for you. If this time is a struggle, keep your focus on what you need to do to take care of you. You don’t need to go through it alone.
If you or someone you know is in crisis in this holiday season, please call:
Lifeline Australia Crisis Support, Suicide Prevention – Phone 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – Phone 1300 659 467
Grief line – Phone 1300 845 745.
Reach out for help. There’s no need to do this alone.
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