The holidays are advertised as a time filled with cheer and good tidings. Yet, that’s not the case for everyone. For some, the holidays can be filled with stress, anxiety, or sadness. Perhaps it boils down to family dynamics or grieving a loss. Maybe your childhood memories of the holidays are unpleasant. No matter the reason, it can be hard to see everyone’s smiling faces and festive Instagram posts when you’re feeling anything but joyful.
Let’s look at how you can cope with negative emotions during the holidays.
Overcoming Emotional Challenges
Don’t Hide From Your Feelings
First and foremost, don’t try to turn a blind eye to what you’re feeling. At best, this is only a band-aid solution on an ever-growing problem. That band-aid won’t hold up forever.
Instead, try to identify what you’re feeling. Is it guilt, shame, anger, anxiety? By naming what it is you’re feeling, you can take the appropriate steps to overcome those feelings. Try to sit with your feelings without judgment. If you need to cry, let it out. If you’re angry and need to vent, get in touch with a trusted friend.
Remember, you deserve compassion, even from yourself.
There are many reasons the holidays cause tension. For a lot of people, this tension stems from family dynamics. Perhaps you have a parent or uncle who always nitpicks your decisions, an aunt who likes to point out your shortcomings, or a cousin who always has to bring politics into the conversation.
No matter what it is, it’s important for you to set boundaries. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to open yourself up for abuse. Maybe you decide on how long you plan to stay in advance, so you have an exit strategy. Maybe you try to diffuse conflict with an “agree to disagree” statement and tell them that if they don’t stop criticizing you or roping you into things you don’t want to talk about, you will have to leave.
It’s important to protect yourself and your peace of mind.
Naming your emotions is just one part of mindfulness. There are other tactics you can use, including journaling, thought pattern analysis, breathing exercises, and more.
For instance, after you’ve identified an emotion, consider an unhelpful thought that comes with it. Why is it unhelpful? What would make it more positive, helpful, or realistic? Try journaling your feelings and the answers you come up with. Over time, you might see a trend you can begin to address specifically.
You can also try a variety of breathing exercises or grounding techniques to help you learn how to focus on the present and bring your mind away from negative ruminations.
Talk to Someone
One of the most effective things you can do to combat negative emotions during the holidays is to talk to someone. This could mean reaching out to a close friend or trusted confidant for support. After all, trying to bear it all on your own will only create more problems for you in the long run. Instead, getting things off your chest will help you start to feel better.
You can also consider therapy to help you out. A therapist can provide a safe space for you to express and explore your feelings. They can help you identify where you’re struggling and why, as well as help you come up with healthy coping mechanisms. There’s no shame in asking for extra support!