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Six skills to survive the holidays

The holiday season is upon us. While the holidays can be a time of joy and merriment spent with family and friends, it can also be a time when many feel distressed.

The holidays can bring up a lot for us, such as: 

  • Falling back into old family patterns, regressing to your younger emotional self which can lead to feelings of being powerless and out of control
  • Dealing with a loss such as death, separation, divorce, illness, a job, or a recent move
  • Difficult feelings of nostalgia and sadness
  • Wishing things were different or like they used to be 
  • Unmindful or mindless eating
  • Alcohol and substance use
  • Feeling overwhelmed by large crowds or gatherings
  • Feeling pressure to make purchases we cannot afford
  • And on...
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It is because of these valid stressors that many find themselves returning to old behaviors that they are working to overcome and change - these can be things like substance use, disordered eating, self-harm, depression, anxiety, shoplifting, compulsive shopping, and on…

The good news is, you can utilize the following six skills to get through the holidays with as little distress as possible and so you can continue thriving in your life after the holidays. 

Six Skills for Surviving the Holidays

1. Reduce vulnerabilities. Our emotions can be greatly influenced by how well we take care of ourselves, including our sleep and eating. It is important that we are getting adequate sleep - it can give us more energy to take on the holidays. It is also important to eat regularly throughout the holidays. While many “save up” for a holiday meal, don’t do it. Plan and eat balanced meals throughout the day, don’t set yourself up for unmindful or mindless eating, it can send you in an emotional tailspin. Also, if taking medications, take them as prescribed.

2. Prepare. Use problem-solving skills to think about any possible distressing situations before hand and have tools in place to navigate the situation as smoothly as possible. Talk with a counselor or other trusted support person to identify specific struggles and come up with a plan on how to handle such struggles if and when they occur. These plans should be individualized, but examples include: Creating a to-do list to help prioritize demands; planning balanced meals throughout the day; taking short walk with a friend if needing a break from a large gathering; only attending what you can handle; attend support meetings.

3. Be mindful. Don’t get caught up in the nostalgia of the holidays, this will only add to your suffering. Instead, stick with the present moment. If you find yourself thinking of what used to be or what should be, notice those thoughts and bring yourself back to the present moment. Use mindfulness exercises to help with this. 

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4. Ignore. Practice being non-judgmental with yourself and others throughout the holidays. You can’t stop others from judging you; however, you can “ignore” their judgements. You don’t have to let these judgments have any impact on you. Also, you can be non-judgmental of you, even when it is difficult and challenging.

5. Take care of yourself. After each holiday event, take the time to care for and soothe yourself. Self-soothing looks different for everyone so identify what you find calming and relaxing. It could be a lavender bubble bath, lighting a candle and reading a good book, or listening to your favorite music. 

6. “This too shall pass.” Remember, the holidays are a season and like all seasons, they pass. While the holidays can be demanding emotionally and physically, you can survive them and make it to the new year! 

 

Take care,

Chelsea