holidays

Coping with Pain, Loss & Stress During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time of great joy, peace, and fun! We may have traditions that enhance our close relationships this time of year, feel more connected to a higher power, or are simply looking forward to much needed time off. However, for many of us, the holidays can be a time of pain, loss, and stress.
This pain can come from hurt or damaged relationships, loneliness or be the result of a traumatic event. If you are feeling pain, it can be helpful to view this pain as a wound or a symptom of a wound. Remember that emotional wounds do not heal over time like physical wounds. Emotional wounds can heal by utilizing mindfulness, empathy, and other therapeutic remedies. If you notice pain this holiday season; try to shift your focus to healing these wounds.

Loss is always difficult and can become harder around the holidays.

Maybe we are dealing with the death of a loved one and an empty chair around our table. Perhaps it is the loss of a relationship or, in the face of the pandemic, the loss of an activity we enjoy and cherish.  Like pain, if we notice loss we need to give ourselves the time and space to heal from it. Allow yourself to grieve, and if possible, sit with the feelings of loss and befriend those feelings. If you notice loss, be kind and gentle with yourself. Loss can create a further loss of self. This can manifest in loss of sleep or loss of personal value you may have. Make sure to protect yourself from any possible loss of self during this time.

Stress is also very common around the holidays. Specifically, when dealing with difficult people…

Whether it’s a difficult family member or a person you have just come across, difficult people can trigger stress. It is first helpful to not take their behavior personally. Also, know that if you feel that someone is difficult, it is likely someone else feels the same way. Be aware if this person is trying to elicit a response out of you. It can be helpful to have a plan or script when dealing with a specific difficult person. Lastly, if you are able, try to have empathy for that person. If you allow yourself to be consumed by their behavior then you are ultimately giving the difficult person power. Empathy gives you the opportunity to eliminate some of that power.
triggered

How to Respond When You Get Triggered

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

The holidays are upon us and that usually means lots of time with our extended family. 2020 has no doubt brought an extra helping of limitations and pressure for us to navigate this season.

Do you dread this time of year or certain aspects of it? Do you wish you had ways to cope with the parts you don’t enjoy? Is there that certain someone who triggers something within you every time you see or talk to them?

Remember this:  You only have control over yourself…how you think about things, your behaviors, how you are feeling, and what you say.

  1. Act, don’t react to the times when you are triggered.  his means slowing yourself down enough to regain control of the situation by choosing how you want to respond (if at all) to inappropriate, mean comments or people. Have a plan for how to respond before you are in the situation. “If he says something mean, I will just look at him blankly while taking some deep breaths to soothe myself. Or if I decide I can’t not say anything, I’ll just say ‘Huh, that’s an interesting perspective, or Huh, that’s a good question, I’ll have to think about that.'”
  2. Acknowledge and validate your feelings that get triggered, “Of course I want to scream at her for commenting about my weight, that was inappropriate for her to say.” Take a deep breath and know that you have zero control over that other person and instead you will take control of yourself and respond appropriately, if at all.
  3. Let yourself off the hook.  Often we think we have to respond to negative comments or inappropriate questions so we can defend ourselves or to make sure the other people in the conversation don’t feel awkward. Remember to be your best adult self and sometimes saying nothing at all communications more than we could ever say with words. In fact, if we don’t respond, it shifts the awkwardness back to the sender.

Ultimately be gentle and tender with yourself and others.  Allow each new moment to unfold as it needs to.  Trust that you will do your best in each new moment and allow others the opportunity to be their best in each new moment.