Navigating our Emotions during the Holidays

As we approach the various holidays of the season many of us find ourselves confronting some difficult territory ranging from introspective thoughts about the year’s end to inescapable family dynamics. With all that in mind, here are a few suggestions for maintaining your mental health during the season.

-Be kind to yourself. It can be tempting to look back at the year and regret what you did or didn’t do. A lot can happen in a year, connections with others can be formed, lost, or transform, sometimes we lose friends, sometimes we gain new ones. We tend to be our own harshest critic and without tempering this can devolve into pointless self flagellation. Over the course of 365 days you are going to make mistakes, mostly little ones but on occasion some big ones. Acknowledge the past, think about how you might respond in the future, and forgive yourself.

-Don’t worry about resolutions. Like everyone, I have hopes for the new year, but I’m also experienced enough to know that an arbitrary date like January 1st isn’t motivation enough to really change. Modifying our behaviors is a lot like exercise, it never gets easier but it does become less a battle of willpower with practice. If you are set on keeping a resolution, keep it simple, small, and scalable. Little changes can build momentum over time.

-Pick your battles with family. We all know that there are some family dynamics that never change but what we can change is our actions in response to those dynamics. As an adult you will inevitably find yourself replaying old behavioral tropes with your family. Give yourself a bit of mental space in these moments. That can be anything from a few calming breaths to deciding to not respond to a family member’s troubling actions.

-Reach out to others. During a period of the year that emphasizes relationships, many of us can feel left out or isolated. I’d encourage you to reach out to friends old and new with something as simple as note or a text message. I’ve found old fashioned letter writing to be a nice way to reconnect with people I haven’t seen much of lately.

-Give yourself some mental maintenance time whatever that might mean for you. For some that’s curling up with a good book, for others, going on a walk in nature, I encourage you to take sometime for a bit of solitude, but balance this out with a reasonable amount of socializing.

-Volunteer. One of the best ways to gain some perspective is to help those less fortunate. This can take the form of volunteering a few hours at a local charity or making a longer commitment for a non-profit cause you feel strongly about. It‘s amazing how healing it can be to temporarily place the needs of others before our own and it that can mean so much to someone in need.

These are just a few simple ideas, I hope you’ll find them helpful wherever your year has taken you and here’s wishing you all the best in the next one!

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