by Jeanne Strauss
It’s important to remember that the holiday season isn’t joyful for everyone. For many people the holiday season brings difficult emotions. Family conflict or negative patterns may surface when family members gather for the holidays. Also, sadness over the loss of loved ones can be more pronounced, and reflections on the discrepancy between where you are and where you want to be in life can overwhelm even the happiest soul this time of year.
If you find the holiday season difficult this year, here are a few tips to help you through those not-so-merry moments:
Allow moments of joy. Joy is not meant to be continuous. Neither is sadness, anger or grief. Joy is part of the cycle of healing and growth. Even when we try to stamp it out, genuine joy will bubble through even the most difficult times in our lives. Welcome joy in those moments.
Choose what Spirit you want to embody. Overly jolly optimist or frenzied gift shopper are not your only choices. Neither do you have to embody the full “bah humbug” persona. Search deeper for how you want to embrace the season as a whole person. Mindfully honor the balance of all you are. Be prepared for other people’s cheerful or cynical persona and don’t let it affect your balance.
Let people know, but only a select few. Explain the difficulties to those closest to you, if they don’t already know or understand. Don’t let others’ expectations of how you should get through this month influence your decisions about how to spend those celebration days. Try to be yourself, feel what you feel and let that be ok.
You have permission to decline some invitations. Choose to spend time with close and genuine people. Allow yourself to have experiences that you would normally enjoy. While it’s not necessary to stay busy at every opportunity, it is important to participate in life. Creating new memories associated with places, people and times of the year helps the healing process.
Take some time to be alone. It is OK to take time by yourself to just feel what you feel without worrying about how another person wants you to feel. In this alone time, don’t just sit and stare. Write your feelings, create something, move furniture, clean and purge, go for a walk, create a letting-go ritual, make yourself a special meal, put on some music, read something uplifting, make goals for next year, start a new project or meditate.
Choose your own way of celebrating the holiday. If the tradition doesn’t work for you, change it. If family gatherings only make you feel worse, change them. Create a new way for family to gather. Have your gathering in a different place, or plan an activity that prevents family members from engaging quite so readily in old patterns.
Don’t let the frenzy disable you. Regardless of the control you take over how and when you experience the holidays, there will still be reminders everywhere. You will still hear the music, you will find yourself in the hustle and bustle at times, and you will be invited to obligatory gatherings. The more mindfully you can approach these triggers, the easier it will be to keep your balance. When you feel the sadness or pain rising, take a breath, feel your feet on the ground, see yourself standing tall and peaceful in the eye of the storm, and allow that bubble of peace to re-center you.
Know that you are not alone; others feel pain, too. When you are able to change your expectations and create a holiday that matches where you are in life, you will be able to experience this season in a new way that works best for you.
Jeanne Strauss is a therapist in San Antonio working with individuals and couples. She has been a licensed clinical social worker for 25 years, specializing in anxiety, stress, personal development, couples counseling, communication and resolving negative relationship patterns. She can be reached at 210-787-6384 or www.jeannestrauss.com.