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  • Makeena Rivers

Coping With The Holidays

The holiday season is a time that’s often filled with joy, connection, and love. While it has the possibility for these more positive and desirable things, it is also all too often the source of stress, tension, and loneliness. Whether you personally celebrate the upcoming holidays or not, it never hurts to put some extra effort into thinking intentionally about tending to your mind and heart.

In preparation for the holidays a few big themes come up:

1. Setting Boundaries in Your Family.

Another big theme that comes up during the holiday season is family. Whether you are being pushed to travel when you are not comfortable doing so, being bothered about when you are going to settle down, or expected to neglect your own needs for the sake of others, family often tests our ability to set and hold boundaries. In thinking about setting boundaries, it is helpful to realize a few things:

  • Setting and maintaining boundaries is not comfortable.

  • Sometimes people will react with anger, fragility, guilt, or dismissiveness when we try to set boundaries in a relationship in which we previously have not.

  • While setting boundaries at the beginning may be difficult, this process can be viewed as a long term investment in your own well-being.

  • You can set boundaries and still love those who you are setting boundaries with

Writing out or recording the boundaries you want to have with your family this season is one way of holding yourself accountable to trying to keep your boundaries intact. It is pretty hard to set and hold boundaries when you don’t have clarity around what those boundaries are.

2. Honoring Loved Ones who Have Passed.

If you’ve lost a loved one you may be familiar with the reality that the holiday season can bring up feelings of nostalgia, longing, or sadness. Mainstream media and social media both add to the high expectation that we all be surrounded by people we value and that make us feel good. If that person isn’t with us, we might find ourselves feeling especially lonely. This has been a year marked by increased numbers of death and loss, so this season might be especially tumultuous.

If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one this season, you can take the opportunity of the emotional tone of the holiday season to honor the person you are thinking of. A few ways you can do this include:

  • Talk about the person you are grieving with family and friends. This can look like reminiscing about funny memories we have with a person, unpacking complex parts of our relationship with a person, or simply just mentioning their name. Even if it feels taboo we are allowed to talk about those who have died. This is not only a way to honor a person’s life, but a lot of times it also serves as a way to honor our own healing process.

  • Write a letter to the person. Whether you believe the person you are writing to can receive your message or not, the experience of writing to a person who you are grieving can be a way to acknowledge the impact they have had on you and your feelings about them.

  • Light a candle, create a piece of art, play a song, or meditate in the honor of your loved one. Anything done (no matter how small it might be) in a way that is mindfully combined with the intention of honoring the life of a person, is a way to honor a person. There is no right or wrong way in deciding how we honor those we love.

3. Grief of Traditions and Long Held Celebrations.

COVID-19 means that many of us aren’t able to celebrate holidays the way we previously have. Grief does not always refer to some form of tragedy, but rather it is complex. We may catch ourselves grieving this season when we cannot practice the traditions we love and value. Humans are social creatures and celebrating with others and holding traditions is one of the ways that we find nourishment in one another. Rather than belittling your feelings this season you can do the following:

  • Sit and acknowledge what it is you’re feeling. Ask yourself questions about what you are feeling and dig deeper about what these feelings mean. It is okay if this is uncomfortable.

  • Mindful breathing. If you are experienced in using breathing techniques to regulate your mental and emotional wellbeing then rely on what you already know. If not, there are so many resources that you can use to practice mindful breathing.

  • Create new plans that feel special. Even if we cannot do whatever it is we would ideally have loved to be doing, that does not mean we must suffer. We have the ability to create new sources of joy for ourselves, even if they are less elaborate than usual.

While independently implementing tools is certainly a big part of the ongoing journey of self improvement and self love, we recognize the importance of collective healing. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to be the first to hear about our community offerings.

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