6 Tips for Managing Difficult Emotions During the Holidays


There is no shortage of information written about coping with the holiday season.  That’s because there’s no shortage of people feeling extra stress this time of year.  Yet many people will cower in the darkness of an emotional corner before reaching out for support.  Following all the tips on the Internet for coping with the holidays won’t guarantee a stress-free season. Yet, there are some simple ways to manage the more distressing emotions that come during this time.  Consider these 5 steps for managing holiday woes.

1. Eliminate untrue self-talkCommon statements we tell ourselves that create isolation are:

“No one would understand how I’m feeling”This is simply untrue. There are universal experiences that connect us as human beings. Periods of deep sorrow, loneliness, depression, or anxiety are some, to name a few. While it might be true that your life includes uncaring persons, you can also find a number of people who are gifted to show compassion when you’re in need. Counselors, pastors, and chaplains feel truly called to listen. If you’ve not shared these isolating thoughts and feelings with your family or friends, try that first. You might be surprised to know they’ve been down that road themselves.

“I don’t deserve someone to care about me”This is a ‘shaming’ thought and may be a symptom of depression. It’s also untrue. Shame can isolate people. The first thing that shrinks shame is disclosing it to someone. Connection shrinks shame. So, battle that thought by stopping it in its tracks.

2. Find a support group – Many local chapters of mental health associations sponsor support groups for people with various concerns. Your local hospitals or certain churches may also offer the same type of connections. It can be scary to connect with new people, though research shows group support is an effective way to cope with many life issues!

3. Do something! Starting a new hobby or lifestyle choice can shift our thoughts and build our emotional immune system. A few possibilities include:

  • Reading a new book – can’t afford one? It’s okay – your local library will let you borrow them for free!
  • Take walks – walking is known to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and can clear your mind of negativity! Got a park or small forest nearby? Even better! Research shows being around nature has great healing power!
  • Learn something new – Whether it’s speaking a new language, learning how to garden or play the piano, learning new things keeps us mentally fit and adds to our overall emotional wellbeing!

4. Commit random acts of kindness – Giving of ourselves benefits us just as much as the person we’re giving to! Even a simple gesture of kind words to someone who might be having a bad day can make a difference. Remember to be equally kind to yourself!

5. Search for the spiritual meaningFor many, the holiday season, especially Christmas, is a time to reflect on and celebrate valued spiritual beliefs. Some studies show that connecting with one’s spiritual self can bring a sense of peace and help a person find purpose in life. There is evidence that exercising one’s spirituality helps to build resilience and overcome the effects of a traumatic event.  If you find yourself feeling negative about connecting with spirituality because of bad experiences with religion, consider that spirituality and religion are not necessarily the same thing.  While religion is a particular system of beliefs, spirituality is more personal and without the dogma that often leaves people feeling guilty and shamed.

6. Gain perspective – The holiday season is temporary. Its value comes from the meaning we assign to it. For some, it’s a time of spiritual celebration. For others, the focus is on family and friends. For you, it might be a time for reflection and personal growth without getting caught in the trap of commercialized mayhem. You get to decide what the season means to you.

I hope you find these tips helpful. I wish you a peaceful Christmas and restful holiday season.

This information is not intended to replace the medical advice or treatment of a trained professional.  If you find yourself struggling to manage challenging thoughts or moods during this time of year, contact your primary care physician or seek the support of a licensed mental health professional.

About L. Chris Cannida

I am a licensed professional counselor living and practicing in Tulsa, Oklahoma
This entry was posted in Christmas, Counseling and Mental Health, Holiday Stress, Resilience, Self Help. Bookmark the permalink.

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