The holiday season in the U.S. is possibly the most taxing time on our collective mental health. In this society from November 1st until New Years, we go through a range of emotions, almost daily, leading up to a one-day event that leaves most of us drained, emotionally and physically spent, regretful and overwhelmed with disappointment.
So much for the holiday spirit. How do we prevent ourselves getting sucked into a vortex of anti-mirth?
For starters, we need to acknowledge our personal triggers. What is it about this season that sends us into orbit or puts us into a pure funk? Is it the ghosts of holidays past that get us worked up? Do we surround ourselves with too many unmet expectations? Do we prefer not to celebrate but feel isolated because it seems everyone else does?
After we’ve thought about the passive aggressive commentary during family gatherings, the exorbitant amount we pay for items that we just can’t rationalize but somehow always end up justifying, even frustration with the amount of time we are all too aware that we do not have, what are we then to do with it?
Enter the Blues Busters, otherwise known as the “Three P’s”:
- Plan with Purpose
- The Present of Presence
- Pleasant Principles: Rituals that Heal
Plan with Purpose: It’s easy to be triggered by unwanted behaviors from those close to us. Having a plan for interacting based on our personal boundaries not only helps us to protect our emotions and feelings, it also helps us respond from a safe place where we feel grounded. Intentionally setting boundaries for what we will accept and allow and what we will not before a family visit or holiday meal, can help us feel more secure in ourselves.
The Present of Presence: Unmet expectations of ourselves, and others are often at the core of the strife we encounter during the holiday season. Setting boundaries with family and friends is a lifelong activity. You get to anticipate, plan and decide what you will allow. However, intentionally taking a few deep breaths while acknowledging what is going on in the moment might help bring about focus and a feeling of being centered.
Pleasant Principles: Finally, instead of feeling bound to traditions that are more toxic than endearing, create rituals that feed, empower and strengthen your soul. A nice morning walk at sunrise might spark thoughts of gratitude. Speaking daily affirmations about the joy of the season could inspire acts of kindness to others or a purposeful few minutes of reflection as the day ends with the intention to embrace rest and a new and different tomorrow.
Knowing that you cannot change anyone, but you can adjust your perspective, response and behavior can be very powerful and encouraging. While the season can bring unwanted feelings of stress and anxiety, there are still opportunities to celebrate support and connection, the newness of the season and anticipation of the new year and above all, hope.