Surviving the Holidays and Other Special Occasions
by Julie Blackburn, LCPC, NCC, ATR
We are talking about surviving the holidays and other special occasions on this episode of Embracing Your Center. Holidays and special occasions are such a hot topic in counseling sessions. It seems these gatherings send us on a spiral of anticipation:
- Some mild aggravation as an event is approaching and then you finally connect with what’s behind that irritation.
- You are very aware of yours stressors and are overcome with worry and nervousness as the event approaches and your actual experience is not quite the train wreck that you created in your mind.
- There is the situation where the anxiety is totally warranted and the family or friends are true to their personalities and the gathering goes exactly as you imagined.
I want you to expand your thoughts of the holidays and special events to go beyond the traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries… Consider some others.
Let’s think about it… throughout the year and our lives, we may be preparing for celebrations and are faced with an incongruent anticipation:
- Special parades or community events you attend every year
- Baby showers, bridal showers, weddings or graduations
- Annual vacations or trips and reunions
Now there are very private special occasions that maybe only known to you. This can become very isolating as the day draws closer. These special events are so important. These days have a tendency to sneak up on us because they are not highlighted on a calendar as recognized holidays.
Let’s spend some time talking about what can you do to survive and reduce your anticipation for these days. We cannot truly predict how things will go. We can develop an understanding of our own needs and ourselves so that we may have the greatest level of comfort.
- Disarm the sneak attack… Get these events on a calendar.
- Get the dates on your annual calendar and use colors to bring attention to specific special dates.
- If your calendar is in your phone, tablet, or computer, use the reminder option to give you a daily reminder for a week or two in preparation for those important days.
- Identify your concern – Recognize the true worry.
- Create a worry list or do a 5-minute writing sprint with anticipation as your intention.
- If you are concerned about erupting emotions, there’s something underlying there. Further explore topics, people, or parts of the day that may be a source of stress.
- Ask yourself – What do I need?
- What is going to be best for you to enjoy these gatherings to the fullest?
- Potential for push back. Coming to terms as to what is best for you may not be popular or what others may want or expect from you. If you understand the why of what you need, communication about your thoughts and plans is so much easier to articulate.
- Recognize you may not be the only one hurting this year during these times. Other people may have needs to do things differently too.
- Plan & Prepare
- The idea here is to think of both the worst-case scenario AND the best-case scenario. You have already built up the worst-case scenario in your mind. Now it’s time to also envision what a great gathering may be like for you too. Chances are that your experience will be somewhere in the middle.
- Identify verbal, behavioral and social strategies.
- Verbal coping is to be rehearsed… so think about how you want to respond to questions about your situation and practice
- Behavioral coping may look like simply leaving when you are ready, listening in on conversations prior to joining or give yourself a job to excuse yourself.
- Social coping can be having people around that know your situation. Keep you heart open to recognize a select few that step up to be a support for you.
- Accept invitations with intention.
- Invitations are simply a request for your presence and the wish to share an experience with you. They are not a demand or an obligation.
- There are some events that you truly don’t want to miss. I encourage you – Go! Enjoy! And have a good time. It’s okay to conserve your social and emotional energy for those “can’t miss” gatherings that you are looking forward to and kindly decline those that are clear to not match your current situation.
- Those that know you and care about you will invite you to gatherings in the future and most likely will appreciate your honesty or timely RSVP.
- Make time for rest and reflection.
- If we sit still, we actually connect with our core and feel something.
- It’s important to take the time to understand how we are growing and changing due to the life we are living.
- Without the reflection, we stay in cycles and patterns that may have worked in the past but are no longer effective.
Finally, Release the guilt.
- Just because this year is tough does not mean every year will be.
- There are many times you have cared for or showed compassion for others. It is time to give that same level of care and compassion to you.
Now it’s up to you. How do you want to survive? Take come action and give yourself a chance. You deserve the same kindness you afford to others. Remember, you are learning to live in a new way and trying new approaches. The goal is to reconnect with yourself as you move through various aspects of your struggle. My hope for you is to renew your heart and embrace the person you are becoming.
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