The holidays are usually a season that reminds us to be grateful, merry, and family-centered. However, for some, the holidays can be another reminder of how isolating, depressing, and triggering life can be. For those of you experiencing the latter, you are not alone. So how do you cope with the difficulties of the holidays? Well, we are here to provide you with some tips and tricks that we hope will help you navigate some of the unpleasant reminders of the holidays.
A good first step is recognizing our triggers because if we can foresee when those difficult thoughts and feelings may arise, we can have better control over them. We recognize triggers by understanding our patterns. Ask yourself, why am I feeling the way I am right now? Perhaps it is a smell, a visual, a tactile cue, or something you heard that triggered a distressing thought, which then led to a distressing emotion. Once you can identify what causes these unfavorable thoughts/feelings, you can better prepare to manage them. When we do acknowledge our thoughts and feelings, try to sit with them. As scary as our thoughts and feelings may be, it is important to pay attention to them because they tell us something. When we feel angry, our boundaries may have been crossed. When we feel sad, we may be holding onto something that we, perhaps, need to let go of. When we feel anxious, our body and mind may tell us we need to take some action.
One way to better prepare for difficult times is to implement positive coping skills. For those of you wondering what positive coping skills are, these are techniques used to cope with life’s difficulties. We specify “positive” because we want to avoid any coping habits that can be harmful to us, such as alcohol, drugs, and avoidance. Yes, avoiding our distressing thoughts/feelings can be harmful because we are suppressing it rather than tackling the problem. It’s like shoving garbage into a wastebasket that is overflowing. Our thoughts and feelings do overflow; they may not be as visible as our ‘overfilled wastebaskets.’
Mindfulness breathing is a simple technique that requires us to focus on breathing as we inhale and exhale slowly. Grounding exercises are another helpful way to cope because it brings us back to the present moment. Additionally, we suggest finding an activity that you find helpful and engaging as your positive coping skill. It could be as simple as listening to music or lighting a candle or as silly as buying yourself flowers or dancing in your living room. Whatever you choose to do, remember that positive coping skills can be used alone or with others.
For those dealing with grief or loss, remind yourself that as circumstances change, so will your traditions. And that is okay. Finding ways to honor your loved ones can give you a sense of closeness even if they aren’t physically present. Perhaps you can share a memory about them with others, eat their favorite food, or light a candle to commemorate them.
Two other tips we would like to share. 1) Be careful with comparisons because pictures can sometimes portray what others want us to see, which may not necessarily be the true reality. 2) It’s okay to cry. But if you prefer not to cry, try sweating by engaging in some form of exercise, as research shows that this is a physiological way to de-stress.
As challenging as the holidays may be, you can get through this time. Positive affirmations are great self-reminders that we are loved, valued, and heard, so allow yourself to use positive affirmations.
The resources below are for your use based on what was discussed in the article:
- 1. STOP Technique to help you calm your anxious thoughts and identify a solution to the problem https://dbt.tools/emotional_regulation/stop.php
- 2. The Cognitive Triangle- to help you identify how our thoughts influence our feelings, which affects our behaviors. https://hudsontherapygroup.com/blog/cognitive-triangle
- 3. Karla McLaren: Author of the book The Language of Emotions to help you understand the role of emotions https://karlamclaren.com/product/the-language-of-emotions-book/
- 4. Mindfulness Breathing Script: https://smithcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/files/downloads/mindful-breathing-meditation.pdf
- 5. 54321 Technique https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx
- 6. List of Positive Coping Skills https://success.oregonstate.edu/sites/success.oregonstate.edu/files/LearningCorner/Tools/50_ways_to_take_a_break.pdf
- 7. List of Positive Affirmations https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/daily-affirmations.html