Surviving and Thriving in the “Happy Holidays”

Surviving and Thriving in the "Happy Holidays" by Jay FeldThe greeting “Happy Holidays!” carries with it the expectation of joy, celebration and happy times. Yet our actual experience of the holiday season is sometimes the opposite.

The joyful experience that the holiday season is meant to be can be obscured by over-spending, over-indulging, and over-sentimentality. Our heads are filled with real or reconstructed memories of happy times in the family circle, and when memory is trumped by reality, we might come away feeling disappointed. The landscape of the holiday season is dotted with land mines of “unfinished business” in our relationships with parents, siblings, children, and extended family members.

In brief — our “happy holidays” can become a chore! What can we do to embrace and enjoy the season rather than just endure it? Here are some simple practices to keep in mind as we enter into the holiday season:

  • Un-plug yourself

Many of us are so over-connected that we can end up feeling stalked or haunted by digital communication from work, social media and the news. What would it be like to turn your device(s) off for one whole hour, or at least during communal meal times?

  • Practice “differentiation”

That’s a big word with a simple meaning: staying true to yourself, while at the same time connecting lovingly with others.  Try to find the “sweet spot” between being drawn into the drama that often accompanies family get-togethers, and staying altogether aloof and apart.  Strive to relate to others proactively, rather than reactively.

  • Plan your self-care

Basic self-care is never more important than during these stressful times. This means being intentional about sleeping enough, eating relatively well (enjoying without over-indulging), and exercising intentionally (at least getting up from the couch for 5 minutes every hour!).

Self-care for your spirit might involve having a twice-daily check-in with God, yourself and another caring human being, for the purpose of restoring your soul. Anticipate that your emotions will go up and down during these times, and deal gently with yourself when they do.

  • Stay sober

Many of the painful stories I hear in my counseling practice all year long involve an un-mindful or over-indulgent relationship with alcohol. Recovering alcoholics refer to the period between Thanksgiving and New Year as their “hurricane season.”

If you struggle with alcohol, the holiday season is particularly fraught with peril. And if it’s not you, but your friend or loved one who struggles, you can be wise, sensitive and loving (without care-taking).

  • Remember the reason for the season

The holidays (originally known as “holy days”) are actually about something! Take time to meditate on the significance of these fall and winter holidays. Open up some heart-space for the purpose of meditating on the true meaning of these days.

The holidays are almost upon us. With a little bit of forethought, we can do more than just survive, we can thrive in this season of love, joy and peace. If you’d like to feel better prepared to face the season, please write or call, and we can make a plan to thrive together!

Jay R. Feld HeadshotDr. Jay R. Feld
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
(917) 572-4068

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