Staying aware of triggers and patterns throughout the holiday season
As a relationship therapist in the Denver area, I witness varying client emotions arising throughout the season, making the holidays both the most exhilarating and challenging time of the year. To help clients cope with the holiday season more adaptively, I share four coping strategies to support managing holiday stress and the mindless triggers of the season. My hope is that you too are inspired by these ideas that might just bring more meaning to your “season of joy”.
In the words of the wise Buddha “expectation is the root of all suffering.” From media and advertising, to our past experience of the holidays, oftentimes our greatest stress around the “the most wonderful time of the year” is born out of our own picturesque and unrealistic hopes of how perfect it should be. Whether it’s how your family will respond to your new special someone, about how a family member will act at dinner, how to get through it after divorce, or everyone getting along in your family, expectations seldom lead to enjoying the holiday for what it is. Surrender to controlling every detail and obsessing over anything that you won’t remember a year from now. Remember that perfection is an illusion - and focus instead on cultivating the feeling you really want this time of year – that of gratitude, joy, and wonder.
It’s never too late to start something new. Reflect on the mindless patterns of the season (overindulging in sweets, buying too many gifts, overcommitting to holiday parties) and decide what meaningful rituals you might introduce this year. Whether it’s incorporating volunteering, a healthy Christmas dinner, or handmade gifts, define what new traditions might speak to the greater meaning of the season.
Numbing with food or alcohol is a common holiday coping mechanism. When we overindulge in these numbing agents, we address only the symptoms of our pain, discomfort, or uncertainty, rather than the underlying issue. This temporary fix delays us from addressing the real feelings that need addressing and may make things worse in the end. It also drains and strains our bodies at an already-difficult time of the year.
Indulge in Self-Care
So often, self-care comes with a feeling of guilt. In a world where we are inundated with responsibilities of every kind, it’s sometimes most difficult to invest in ourselves. While self-care traditionally might look like massages, bubble baths, and pedicures, this practice can take many forms, including saying “no” to events that don’t serve your spirit, and even seeking professional support to cope with the challenges of the season. Dr. Hick, Denver individual relationship psychologist, provides seasonal support and accountability, even when the topic is nurturing the relationship with self. There is no better time to give to yourself than the holidays.
Don’t forget to seek support from friends, family, and professionals as holiday challenges and triggers arise. Looking forward, as you reflect on your life’s vision for 2016, consider contacting Dr. Hick for an initial conversation about how therapy might support greater happiness and abundance in the New Year.
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