Getting Through The Holiday Season

Written by an iTherapy Provider

Getting Through The Holiday Season

Getting Through The Holiday Season (updated 11/2023)

It seems like an appropriate time to update my prior blogs since we are moving into the holiday season. Getting through the holiday season can bring a lot of feelings to the surface. This time of the year can be so wondrous but also full of frenzy, stress, sadness, and for some downright triggering. For those who are grieving, it can be an especially difficult time. For many who are struggling in their lives for a variety of reasons, this can be a challenging time of the year. With a heightened sense that we should all be happy or having fun, if we are not feeling that way, we may feel like there is something wrong with us. Or we may just feel out of step with everyone.

Normal Stressors

The holiday season can bring some normal stressors even in the best conditions. We all have our normal responsibilities, but we can have normal holiday stressors added on to that. This can include extra responsibilities of entertaining, gift buying, decorating, mailing packages, sending out cards, dinners, parties, or anything else that comes with it. Put it all into perspective and recognize that there isn’t one way to managing the holiday season. Have some flexibility and allow modification if you need to. We can make choices that are right for us. For some it might be just accepting it will be crazy for the next 2 months. And even embracing the craziness of the season. While for others it will need to be scale back to make it more manageable.

Triggers

This just might be another holiday season full of triggers and something you just get through. If the holidays are triggering, you can choose not to celebrate or make it more manageable. You need to figure out what you need. However, like any triggers it is also an opportunity to work on them, whether you do this yourself, go to a support group or decide it is time to go to a therapist. Triggers can be a good reminder of what we need to heal. However, you get to decide when you will do that though. It does not need to be right now but give yourself what you need.

Healing

We are all walking around with old wounds, but some have had the chance to heal, and others have open wounds with puss coming out. Not a very pleasant visual but to know that you have serious and open wounds and are choosing to ignore them, may mean you are not choosing yourself. It may be a process and can take whatever amount of time it takes. If you find that you are reacting to others in a way that might be out of proportion to what is actually happening. This could be a sign that you have some wounds that might need to be addressed at some point.

It is important to recognize that we are all deserving of healing and moving forward. If you are stuck or for some reason do not believe you deserve anything more, maybe it is a sign you need someone to help you in the healing process.  Please reach out for help. Take the little steps so you will reach your potential and live the life you were meant to live. Ask for help or seek guidance if you need to.

Reflective

This can be a reflective time. A time to look back on what has happened to you this past year. Most years have a mix of different experiences. Celebrate your achievements, accomplishments and all the good things. There may be other more painful things such as losses, endings, crisis, betrayals and bumps in the road. But just acknowledging and recognizing them is always a good first step. Maybe you are ready to release some old hurts. But understand the feelings are there but still need time to process.

Grief

Grief this time of year can feel even more heightened. It can be a reminder that your life is forever changed. If you experienced a loss this year or over the last few years, this may be a triggering time and a sad time for you. It also may feel a bit confusing as to how to manage it. Should I celebrate? Do I want to celebrate? What will others expect me to do? What do I want to do? You may choose to use the “maybe” more than usual. Or you may choose to just pass on everything or decide to scale it down. For example, would be going out to eat instead of cooking a big holiday meal.

You can choose to skip the holidays. It is perfectly acceptable to decide to skip all the holiday stuff this year which includes decorating, gift giving, parties, or dinners. Sometimes that is what we need to do.  Or maybe it will be a smaller version of what you usually do. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There is no correct way to grieve; you get to choose. Sometimes it is just about getting through the best you can.

It also important to recognize we can have feelings that may feel contradicting, such as sadness and joy or grief and gratitude. Emotions are often paradoxical since it is a mixed bag.

“Know that you can feel both loss and gratitude during the holidays.”

Laurie Kahn

Be The Priority

You can be the priority. We have gotten through some difficult years. You have permission to modify, change or start something new if that is what you want. Put self-care and self-compassion as a priority and let it guide you here.  Make this an opportunity to change it up and to create something new and different. You can create new traditions. Many people have changed how they do holidays since 2020. Or maybe this year you decide it is time to return to old traditions.

What the last few years has reminded me, is that life can change rather quickly, and we should never put off what we really want to do and the importance in finding balance and joy in the present moment.  We also need to bring self-compassion into our lives. To be a little kinder and supportive of ourselves. To give yourself permission to do what you need. And take steps to care for yourself through the process is something to keep in mind.  Whether you are in the process of grieving, healing or just adjusting, it is important to care for ourselves.

“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, so that we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of.”

Jennifer Louden

 

Finding Some Joy

Just take care of yourself and listen to what you need to help guide your decisions on what you need to do. Find joy where you can. If it is spending time with family, friends, pets, in nature, reading, or watching Hallmark Christmas movies that brings you joy, then do that.

Sometimes we just need to hibernate a little bit. Whatever you need. Scale down, decide to skip it or go full out holiday crazy. It is up to you. If spending time reading and drinking hot chocolate will bring you joy, then do that. If hiking with your dogs in snow brings you peace and joy, then do that. Embrace whatever the activities and the people that you connect to.

“Being human is not about being any one particular way; it is about being as life creates you—with your own particular strengths and weaknesses, gifts and challenges, quirks and oddities.”

Kristin Neff

Final Thought

As I move through the remaining part of this year, I’m a bit at a loss to what next year will bring. So, instead I will focus on the rest of this year. Probably keeping it a little more low-key and approaching it with a lot of self-compassion. I will also embrace all the opportunities to connect to myself and those I love and care for. And take in the little moments of joy where I can find them. I will be grateful to all the people in my life that have been amazingly kind and supportive. For me I will end this year with a lot of gratitude and hope. With also recognizing that it might also bring some sorrow and sadness too.

“If we are to feel the positive feelings of love, happiness, trust, and gratitude, we periodically also have to feel anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow.

John Gray

Updated from original blog from December 14, 2021.

Photo by Anthony Tranon Unsplash.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Meditation: RAIN of Self-Compassion by Tara Brach, https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-rain-self-compassion/, “One of the great sufferings is turning on ourselves with judgment and/or self-aversion. This practice brings the acronym RAIN to this pain. It helps us cultivate a healing self-compassion, and the realization of who we are beyond any limiting story of self.”

“Finding Balance” blog, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2022/03/02/finding-balance/.

“Self-Reflection” blog, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2022/05/01/self-reflection/.

“Lean Towards Healing” blog, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2022/10/01/lean-towards-healing/.

“First Aid Tools for Stress and Overload Managing in Stressful Times” blog, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2021/09/14/first-aid-tools-for-stress-and-overload-managing-in-stressful-times/.

“Is It Time For A Change?” blog, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2022/01/01/is-it-time-for-a-change/.

Original Post November 17, 2023 on Karen Gentilman’s website Illumination Counseling Service.

Karen Gentilman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) practicing in the State of Idaho, working for 30 years with many different medical conditions both acute and chronic conditions, the last 20 years in neurological rehabilitation including brain injury, strokes and spinal cord injuries. She takes a trauma-informed, integrated and holistic approach with utilizing multiple modalities which is individually based while striving to provide compassionate therapeutic environment. Call (208) 266-4642 or email KarenGentilman@IlluminationCounselingService.com  to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Karen Gentilman’s profile page.

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