There is something special about the holiday season that can remind us of positive feelings related to childhood, can remind us of the importance of taking time off to rejuvenate, to celebrate life, eat delicious foods, and get together with family and friends (if possible).
Equally, for many people such as people who have family problems, or who have had a recent death, or people who need to isolate due to Covid-19, or who are working and can’t take any time off such as many people in healthcare, this can be a time that can trigger feelings of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, or grief.
If you are one of the people in the second camp, I’d like to extend you a few tips to help you get through this season or any other holiday season that may have a similar impact on you.
1. It will pass
It might feel incredibly frustrating to see people who are happy and celebrating and feeling that you are the only one who doesn’t share the same sentiment. Just remember that it is a holiday “season” and seasons come and go, they don’t stay. So remind yourself of the impermanence of these festive feelings that everyone seems to be in that you feel excluded from.
2. You are not your feelings
Just because you are feeling excluded or feeling sad, or lonely or grief, it does not mean that you need to be your feelings. Just as the season passes, so do your feelings. So be careful about over identifying with your feelings. Notice what you feel but imagine your feelings are something you are watching on a screen or you are on a train and your feelings are like scenery you are watching as you are passing through.
3. Do things that make you feel good
Watch funny movies (unrelated to this holiday), exercise, join a group of people in a similar situation as you, take this time to read a new book, or learn something new, or to declutter your house. Do whatever you can think of that would generate positive feelings for you and that are ideally also good for you (i.e., be wary of drinking too much or anything that feels like a numbing strategy).
4. Envision the future
This is a time not to get stuck in the unpleasant feelings of the present time and to try and imagine a future where you will be happier. What would that look like? What will you need in that future where perhaps you would be able to experience more joy and contentment. Would it be better health? More money? Resolving or coming to terms with some long standing conflicts? Having a healthy relationship? Allow yourself to imagine this future. It’s ok not to be realistic. It’s a good mental exercise to let yourself be as creative and imaginative as possible.
5. Plan something you can look forward to.
You may say it’s difficult to plan when things are so uncertain. You can’t travel or you don’t have the funds to do what you really want to do such as not work for a whole year and study something you really would enjoy. That’s ok. Even if this is a long term plan, it’s important to have a rough plan and to know what steps you can take today that will bring you closer to that vision.
I cannot take away your “not-so-good” feelings, as I call them when I talk to my daughter. In our house we try not to use the word “bad” feelings to normalize the experience of having all pleasant and unpleasant emotions. But what I can tell you is that what you are going through is a shared human experience and normal. You are not alone and there are things you can do to make it go by a little smoother and with less suffering.
See you on the other side of the season! It will pass!
If you want to use this holiday season working on your self, download our free Ask Yourself workbook here.
Dr. Ava Ghasemi (Holdich) is a licensed Psychologist with 11 years experience in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. She has a practice of individual and couples therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.