It’s important to keep in mind this can be a time of great ambivalence for many people. There is a universal expectation that everyone can be or will want to be with their families for the holidays. The default mode, falsely created by Mall music, twinkling lights, and TV commercials, is one of great cheer. We need to normalize for friends and loved ones that this time of year can bring unique and difficult triggers including: buried feelings of loss and grief; resentment; anger; anxiety; and even dread. Those who struggle economically feel increased financial stress and pressure. Those who have been working hard to maintain their sobriety or combat an eating disorder feel lured by the availability and excessiveness of food and drink. Overwhelming affect that needs to be soothed can make people vulnerable to compulsive shopping or spending. And all of those potentially self-destructive behaviors are socially acceptable during the holidays!
So at this time of year, we need to have an open and non-judgmental dialogue about these issues. People need to be encouraged to track and monitor their moods from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. It’s a time of year when therapy, self-help books, support groups, 12-step meetings, and on-line chat rooms can help those who struggle to begin strategizing healthier ways to self-soothe and to address grief or depression. Many people need permission to limit family visits that are toxic, or to connect with surrogate family and friends instead. This is a great time of year to volunteer, focusing on altruistic endeavors that create perspective and rekindle a sense of gratitude. And don’t underestimate the role that spirituality and ritual can play in adding comfort, new meaning, and new memories to this potentially emotionally challenging time of year.
What ideas to you suggest that people do in order to combat or confront what more or less may be a difficult time of year for them? Please share your thoughts.