“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Preparing for the Holidays
It’s that time of the year again- the time when the season starts to change. There is an increase in end of the year get togethers, tacky sweater parties, and holiday gatherings. While this season is called the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, it is often a very painful season for many. It can be filled with grief, anxiety, disappointment, and loneliness.
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we may forget to take care of ourselves. We may not know how to manage the busyness of what each day brings. I want to provide you with three simple tools you can use to help you navigate the expectations, anxiety, and energy of the holiday season. If you follow this process in order, it can help you prioritize what is important to you and teach you how to manage your anxiety level in each potential situation.
Create a Pros/Cons List. Yes, this may seem silly and trivial but it can help you determine what some of the best choices and options may be for yourself.
First, make sure you are creating this list when you are not feeling overly emotional or anxious. When writing the Pros/Cons list, write down the pros/cons of ENGAGING in the behavior and the pros/cons of NOT ENGAGING in the behavior. (For example, the pros/cons of going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party versus the pros/cons of not going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party.)
When doing this make sure you’re honest with yourself- you will be taking all factors into consideration when making your decision. If a pro is that you get to wear a tacky sweater- mention that! If a con is that it will increase your feelings of loneliness- include that too. Whether or not you realize it, you are thinking about each of these reasons when making your decision.
When your list is ready, evaluate your answers and see which one feels better in the short term and what you want to accomplish in the long term. This can help you determine what your next steps should be!
Cope Ahead for the Situation. If you decide that you ARE going to go to your Uncle Frank’s house for Thanksgiving and you know it can be particularly stressful, take the time to cope ahead! Often times when we think about a distressing situation, we already act as though the worst-case scenario has happened. Coping ahead helps you come up with a plan before the event and can make you feel more empowered.
Think of what situation is likely to cause you emotional distress. Imagine what emotions you may experience and how you will be tempted to respond.
Determine what coping mechanisms you have and ways that you can respond to various scenarios. Be very specific and include a great deal of detail when considering the situation.
Imagine the situation as vividly as possible. Imagine that you are in the situation itself and not that you are watching it from afar.
Rehearse in your mind coping effectively. Imagine exactly what you would say; specifically how you would respond; coping with your most feared catastrophe; and handling new problems that arise. And when you imagine it, imagine responding SUCCESSFULLY and EFFECTIVELY.
Finally, practice RELAXATION after rehearsing (and during rehearsing). This helps set you up for success. It helps you to become calm again and reminds you that the situation will end.
Prepare a Self-Soothe Kit. Sometimes it can be very helpful to bring items that will help you feel more grounded, distract you from the current situation, and calm you. These can be simple items that help relieve some of the distress and bring you a sense of peace. When making the self soothe kit, make sure that you are bringing items that attend to each of the five senses.
Sight- Bring pictures of an upcoming vacation. Bring a coloring book that you can color. Save motivational quotes and funny memes that you can glance at to take you out of the moment.
Sound- Create a playlist on your phone- it can be soothing songs or songs that bring you joy. Record your favorite animal or a safe person reminding you how much they love you. Listen to your favorite standup comedian.
Smell- Bring essential oils. (My personal favorites are lavender and peppermint). Bring the cologne or perfume of a loved one. Bring an item that smells like the ocean and transports you to another time or place.
Taste- Enjoy different foods that have distinct flavors. Peppermints. Chocolates. Pop rocks. Something that will stand out and take your mind off the situation you are in.
Touch- Try to bring something with a unique texture. It could be a rock, shell, marble, kinetic sand, or a feather. Something that you can pay attention to and get comfort out of.
And as I always encourage my clients, family, and friends… make sure you engage in SELF CARE. While these steps may not change the situation you are in, hopefully it can help you feel more empowered and prepared to enter into the holiday season.
These skills are part of the four modules of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The Summit Counseling
Center offers skills courses throughout the year. If you or a loved one would be interested in
hearing more about these services, please contact us at (678) 893-5300.