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  • Suzanne Muirheid

How to Make the Holidays Happy When Times Are Hard

It’s the most wonderful (bittersweet?) time of the year…

Every year when the holidays roll in, we are flooded with TV commercials, store decorations, and each new house down the block that has just put up its Christmas lights. All of these signs that the holidays are coming are signifying joy and togetherness. But what if we aren’t feeling that way? Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday that is celebrated during this time of year means so many different things to different people. It might be for religious, family, or other traditions. But the holidays also come with other memories and experiences for many people. Holidays can signify the reminder of a loss or other negative experience. We are often left feeling confused when we don’t feel what “seems” to be that joyful feeling the world is portraying for us. When the holidays are on their way and it’s bringing up different feelings, whether it be sadness, anger, or grief, this is not only expected but completely normal. Here are a couple of things to remember:

We are all carrying something.

The holidays can truly be wonderful but the portrayal of them is a painted picture. It is so common for the holidays to bring up feelings of grief for a loved one, reminders of a negative memory around a past holiday or other time, or general feelings of sadness and anxiety. The lights, gifts, decorations, etc can be lovely but they are not a replacement for our emotional experience. Many people report increased symptoms of depression and anxiety around the holiday time. Big events and specific times of year tend to trigger big memories-which are exactly what the holidays do. Honor your feelings. Yes, all of them. They are all giving you clues into something that needs your attention.

Refocus your attention.

This is not always easy but it can be very helpful. What are the things you enjoy about the holidays? What elicits positive and joyful feelings or a sense of connection and gratitude? Think about things you can do to cultivate this. Sometimes we have to reach a little bit deeper within ourselves to find it. Maybe it is something as simple as sitting in simple quiet and doing something loving for yourself. It could be reaching out to someone else who needs a helping hand during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to get creative-imagine the new traditions you could bring about for future years.

Embrace all that you feel this holiday season. It is all part of the human experience and you are very normal for experiencing a wide range of emotions. Processing and talking about these emotions is also very helpful. 2020 has left us with unique challenges which have added additional stress. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Calm Mind Counseling Center if you need support.

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