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Ryan LindaTherapist's Corner...
Lighten Your Emotional Mind During the Holidays

Christmas will be here before we know it.  The stores have been ready since Halloween.  Everywhere we look we are encouraged to “Look forward” to this perfect day or time.  There are parties and all kinds of celebrations.  Many of us will be overwhelmingly busy.   But most especially we are supposed to look forward to spending time with our family. So, what if you don’t get along with your family, or every time you are together there are hurt feelings?   What if you don’t even have family?  What if your family lives far away?  What if Christmas is an anniversary date of something painful?  There are so many reasons Christmas can be emotionally difficult for many people.  Sometimes people say they “hate” the holidays.Whether you are simply stressed or you are one of those who are not at all looking forward to the holiday, there are some things that you can do to “lighten the emotional mind”. Christmas will come whether we want it to or not.  The 25th WILL arrive.  In the days and weeks coming consider the following;

  1. Avoid thinking emotionally like “I hate”… or “It will be awful”… or “I will never”.  These emotional thoughts are guaranteed to make you feel worse.  Try thinking more temporarily, like, “Right now”… or “Today”… or “In this moment”.   When we think with our emotional mind, the emotion generally controls how we feel.

  2. Avoid pity for yourself.  Rather than to think about how bad you have it, think about the present moment and how you can spend the moment in appreciation.

  3.  Approach the season with an attitude of gratitude.  Practice loving kindness towards those around you. 

  4. Manage your expectations for a “perfect holiday”.  Stay true to yourself and don’t get drawn into the hype.  Stay true to your idea of what the season is all about.

  5. Find a way to center yourself each day.  Start the day by making a plan.  Sit with a cup of coffee or tea and plan what is most important to you.  Avoid more than 3-4 items.  Build in a space of time just for you.  Stop in the middle of the day, whether shopping or at work to treat yourself to some quiet reflective time remembering your plan.

  6. Exercise!  Isn’t that the hardest thing for some of us to do?  Yet, research shows how important exercise is for our mental and physical health.

  7. Be Grateful.  Scientific studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are more optimistic, feel happier, and are more connected to the world.

  8. If you fail today, start over tomorrow.

~ Linda Ryan, Therapist

HainAFrom Our EAP...Managing Holiday Stress

Here's how to cope better with expectations, demands, and added pressure during the holidays.
Decision Time -- Make a decision to take charge and tackle holiday stress. This mentally prepares you to enjoy the time while facing demands of the season with better endurance.
Your Priorities -- Decide on your priorities to make the season meaningful. Did you miss the tour of homes last year because the Waltons next door had their open house on the same day? The idea here is to plan a few "non-negotiable" events for yourself.
Now the Rest -- What activities are important to your brood this year? Seek to trim the "idea tree" to reduce stress from trying to fit it all in. A family meeting to gather ideas can work, and chances are activities you thought everyone still wanted are no longer of interest.
Avoid the Rush -- Are holiday lights on the house critical? If yes, go for it, but if it seems more like a "chore" than a pleasurable task, that's a clue about its priority and importance to you. Activities that feel like chores get delayed. Pay attention to procrastination. It is insight to help you decide whether it's thumbs up or down on something that seems desirable.
Fight the Blues -- If the holidays are a sad time of year because of difficult memories or because a loved one can't be there, then discover a personal intervention strategy. Volunteering for a local charity is an interactive experience, and those who've tried it claim it works to lift one's mood. You'll feel empowered and more positive, and the experience of helping others anchors you to a memory that lasts.
Navigating Family Conflict -- If you can't avoid holiday gatherings with family members who experience feuds and conflicts, try discussing with kin your desire to avoid conflict. Be up front and ask that differences be set aside.

Older adults criticizing teenagers is a famous trigger. So are statements from in-laws that appear critical, interfering, or meddlesome. Self-awareness is power, so you stand a good chance of at least minimizing this behavior.

Take Care of Yourself -- What improves your mood--exercise, positive affirmations, alone time? During the year, have you been promising to do something for yourself, but keep putting it off? Do it. The holiday season is a perfect time to reaffirm your love, not only for those you care about but also for yourself. Holiday stress affects everyone differently, so don't face the stress alone. Reach out to your employee assistance program to help you find resilience and strength to face any challenges the holidays may bring.

~ Anna Hain, EAP Coordinator
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