The holiday season can be one of the most challenging times of the year for many people. Stress usually runs high for those who travel long and short distances to see their loved ones; sadness is present for those who struggle with depression; painful grief is unescapable for those who for the first time will celebrate holidays after the loss of a loved one, or for those who face the first holiday season after separation or divorce. Others are confronted with stressful family dynamics they wish to avoid but feel obligated to endure.
If you have experienced a very difficult year and you are not feeling particularly cheerful or sparkly during the holidays, it can be very tempting to want to let yourself go into full hibernation. Especially if you are currently struggling with depression.
The defense of avoidance is very opportunistic during the holidays, and it may even act in a sneaky way by trying to convince you that sleeping through the new year or isolating from everyone else are what is best for you.
We all have a healthy life force that wants to propel us forward. Choosing avoidance tactics (sleeping, isolating from friends, procrastinating in traveling, etc.) can bring immediate relief of anxiety and fear, but there is usually a high price that we pay for choosing not to face our feelings.
Instead of avoiding, choosing to face what is painful can be liberating and also can give us information about how to best take care of ourselves.
Regardless of how you choose to spend this holiday season, you can live through the blues of the holidays the mindful way.
Facing Grief with mindful awareness of feelings and needs
Grief is always an emotion that needs space to be felt. You can honor your grief by paying tribute to the person you lost. If the grief is related to the ending of a relationships, pay tribute to yourself by focusing on what your needs and desires are moving forward.
Facing Sadness with mindful awareness of thoughts
If you are feeling sad and lonely, make sure that you pay attention to negative thoughts only to notice them, label them, and let them go. Avoid getting caught into the script that usually is full of self-dismissive or self-critical thoughts. Although it can feel difficult at the moment, try to force yourself to scan every day for a something positive or more importantly, something to feel grateful for. Remember that the brain has a negative bias and in order for us to be attuned to the positive we need to be intentional about it.
Facing loneliness with mindful courage
If you are experiencing loneliness, give your friends the gift of an opportunity to be there for you this holiday season. Embrace vulnerability, MAKE COURAGE, and and reach out to someone you know would be welcoming and kind to you. Don’t believe your thoughts about being a burden to others with your emotions. Remember that at some point in your life, you have been helpful to someone who was going through a tough time and how good it made you feel to have been there for them.
Facing mixed feelings with mindful boundaries and compassion
If you are experiencing intense mixed feelings about family dynamics, remember that it is possible to feel love and hate towards our loved ones is normal and human. People can be disappointing and hurting in so many ways, but most of the time they do not intend to be. Hurtful behaviors are usually a reflection of deep, unresolved emotional conflicts that are not always conscious. You can practice bringing compassion to the suffering of your difficult family member, even as you set healthy boundaries. Remember that boundaries are an act of love and protect your relationships from future resentment.