The middle of November through the beginning of January is probably the time of year with which the most Americans have a powerful love-hate relationship. For some, the holidays are a time of joy, reuniting with loved ones, excitement over presents and delicious meals, and a sense of hope for the new year to come. But for others, Thanksgiving and Christmas bring with them reminders of the person missing at the table, difficult family conflicts usually avoided, or painful memories of when things used to be good. The holidays bring out emotions in all of us, whether positive, painful, or some awkward mix of both (that’s usually me).
So how do we navigate the emotionally-laden days ahead of us? A few recommendations for everyone on the emotional spectrum:
For the joyful: Soak in these moments. Pause whenever you can to recognize the value of the moments you are in, and recognize that many are burdened during this time of year. Acknowledge that your joy and delight are precious gifts meant to be savored with a grateful heart. These are the moments that can help to sustain you in future years when things aren’t so easy.
For the hurting: Give yourself permission to not be happy. Part of what makes the holidays so challenging is the cultural expectation that you SHOULD be happy, or at least pretend to be. Take care of yourself even if doing so disappoints others. It’s ok to not be ok, and to ask for help from trusted friends and family. If possible, find ways to integrate your grief or struggle into your holiday celebrations. If a family member has passed away, take time to go around and share memories of that person, or hang an ornament in their honor. Self-compassion is hard for all of us but will be key to thriving during the holidays.
For those of us in the, “awkward mix,” category: I’ve learned, through various personal and professional experiences, that the richest moments in life lie in the space between sadness and joy, pain and delight, longing and contentedness. The more we can choose to show up with our Selves and engage with the tension between the hard and the delightful, the more we truly live. Authenticity is not easy and often messy, but there is such beauty in the mess. If we’re honest, nothing in life is purely happy or sad. Life is complicated, and it’s ok for your feelings to be complicated too.
Wherever you are this holiday season, blessings to you as you seek to grasp hands with your Self and your community and live. And from your counselors here at Insight – we’ll see you on the other side.
Note: If you or a loved one are depressed and need mental health assistance at any time during the holidays, the TN Crisis Hotline is a wonderful resource. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The number is 1-855-274-7471.
Written by Brooke Lamb, LMFT