Happy Holidays! Or is it?

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year.  It’s a time thought of to be full of good cheer.  We spend time with family and spend money buying the people we love gifts that they will hopefully love.  We eat lots of food.  We listen to happy music.  We watch cute movies on TV.  It’s a time of peace and love and family.  And then we get to welcome in the new year, a fantastic fresh start full of festive celebrations exploding with joy and excitement and possibilities.  Thanksgiving all the way through January 1… a magical time of year.  Right?

Well, that’s what the Hallmark channel wants you to believe.  But I’m here to tell you that the holidays are often one of the most difficult times of year for folks.  It is often a reminder of things lost.  It is often a reminder of things left undone.  It is often a reminder of unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams.

This is a time of year when many people struggle.  And they often feel guilty about struggling, which makes them struggle more.  It’s like being in quicksand…the more you move the deeper you sink.  Yet society seems to expect everyone, regardless of circumstances, to just put on a happy face and maybe put on a festive party hat too.  But this is not always realistic.  Nor is it always a healthy choice.

The true, organic emotions that surface within us are things that we have literally no control over, none at all.  Where our power and control begins is after these emotions come out.  But pushing them down or out or away is not effective or advisable.  “Stuffing” emotions temporarily may be ok, but trying to stuff them endlessly is a super risky idea.  Because there is no emotional vault large enough to keep them contained forever.   I guarantee you that when you stuff today, they will come out tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Or the next year.  The timing is questionable, however the act of the emotions demanding time and attention is not.  IT WILL HAPPEN.  YOU CANNOT STUFF FOREVER.  And it is not fair for you to expect that of yourself or of others.

If you know someone that is struggling during the holiday season (or at any time), all you need to do is listen.  You do not need to solve.  You do not need to fix.  You do not need to distract.  Just be quiet, be present, and listen.  Pay attention to their body language. Pay attention to their tone of voice.  Notice all of the things that they are communicating in ways other than by using words.  This is active listening.  And this is how you can help someone through a rough patch, be it around the holidays or in the middle of March. 

Once they start to get some of that toxic stuff out, then using distractions might be helpful.  But if you go that route, please be sure to have given them the time and space they need to process whatever is going on for them.  Check in with them regularly and move at their pace.

And if you are the one that’s struggling, I strongly encourage you to find a solid support person to talk to.  Get those yucky feelings out.  Write in a journal and burn the pages.  Draw.  Sculpt.  Paint.  Do whatever you need to to purge some of that yuck.  And after you do some cathartic work, whatever that looks like for you, be sure to do some self-care activities.  These can be holiday related like looking at lights or they can have absolutely nothing to do with the holidays like taking a nice long bath.  Whatever form of self-care you use, as long as it’s not somehow hurting yourself (such as cutting or getting wasted) or someone else, it’s the right choice.

You, yes YOU deserve to take care of yourself.  You, yes YOU deserve to feel good.  You, yes YOU deserve to feel loved.

May you all be well and may you all find some form of peace and light not only this holiday season, but all year long.  Namaste.  

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