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Category: Holidays / Topics: Change Christmas Coping Family Holidays Holiday Season Loss & Grieving Relationships

Redesigning Your Holiday Feelings

by Barbara Miklos

Posted: November 20, 2015

Eight tips to help make the best of the holiday season, especially if you have suffered loss or undergone significant change in the last year…

“Have a Great Holiday! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Hanukkah! HO..HO..HO..MerryChristmas and a Happy New Year! Sometimes those words can feel like a sharp dagger in our soul even when its intent is to give us joy.

The following are some healthy  tips for “Redesigning Your Holiday Feelings” accumulated over many years from my personal and professional experiences. They can he helpful to anyone, but particularly if you have recently suffered loss or a significant change in your life. In order to have a positive experience during a potentially difficult time, it is important to understand what’s normal, what’s not, and to take  practical steps to redesign feelings and establish new traditions to meet your emotional  needs  during the holiday season.

TIP #1—Review Your Sleep Patterns

Studies show that most Americans are sleep deprived due to the lack of and quality of their sleep as a result of stress, anxiety, depression, grief and unidentified sleep disorders. If you consistently have trouble falling asleep, have interrupted sleep, experience early waking, or feel unrefreshed in the morning, you will not experience the “recovery sleep” you need to experience optimal functioning on a daily basis.  Record your sleep patterns on a calendar for a week or two and review this with your doctor. Improper sleep will make it more difficult for you to deal with the positive and negative stressors of the holiday season.

TIP #2—Get Problems Up & Out

Much of the negative stress we experience during the holidays is self-created through repression—pushing frustrations, and other  negative feelings down inside and letting them fester. Studies show that 85% of the things we worry about either never happen or we have no control over them. Talk about things with a trusting person or a professional. Many of my former clients came in as the holidays approach. This was a healthy step on their part. I call it a “seasonal tune-up.” We all need confirmation that our feelings are normal and a “reality check” about the best way to get some enjoyment from our holiday experiences. This “tune-up” also helps individual distinguish between “holiday blues” and more significant clinical depression.

TIP #3—Plan Ahead

To the best of your ability, plan ahead for the holiday activities in which you need and/or want to participate.  This alleviates anxiety and reduces stress. This planning should include, preparation i.e. shopping, holiday schedule, time with others, time for self.  Do your best to communicate clearly about plans with friends, family, children and ex-spouses if applicable. If necessary, put things in writing so there are no misinterpretations.

As part of this planning make sure you include “comfort time.”  Set aside five or ten minutes each day to focus on what is different for you and what is missing from your holidays. Allow yourself that time to experience and or write down feelings about this change in your life. Try to save those thoughts and feelings for that specific  “comfort time” using the rest of your time to be in the present and enjoy the people around you.

TIP #4—Accept Change as the Only Constant in Life

Understanding and accepting the fact that “things change” in life  will  help to prepare you for the normal stress that occurs with any change. Be aware of the fact that the level of stress you experience is directly related to the degree of change, positive or negative, how recent the change is,  and how it impacts your life. For example, if you are having your first holiday in a new house, even though this is a positive change, you might experience a “let down” feeling during the holidays. If you are experiencing the holidays for the first time since a loved one died, your sadness will be more intense.  Recognize the process of “loss and renewal” experienced during the holiday season.

TIP #5—Make a “Holiday Shift”

Making  new memories is a healthy way to “redesign your holiday feelings.” Whenever dynamics have changed in a family due to death, divorce, people moving, etc., it can be helpful and healthy to make a “Holiday Shift.” Do something different—create different rituals and traditions. Go away for the holidays…if the schedule is too hectic, change the date of celebration…have brunch instead of dinner, adjust financial output if necessary,  give of yourself to others who are less fortunate. 

A former client had recently been divorced and was approaching her first Christmas as a single after many years. When she went to her daughter’s house on Christmas Eve, her ex-husband was there, also her son-in-law’s parents, her grandchild and some other friends of her daughter. She said she felt uncomfortable and really didn’t enjoy the time spent. The following year she decided to go someplace with another single friend and invite her daughter’s family to her new apartment after the holidays for “Grandma’s Christmas Brunch” This had now become her new tradition. She gets to see her grandchildren open the presents she has given them in an atmosphere that is calm and enjoyable for her and her family.

TIP #6—Be Realistic

Holidays that are “picture perfect”  are  usually not reality.  Many people I have worked with “dread” getting together with all of the relatives. Others love the hustle and bustle of chaos.  Remember the reasons for these holiday celebrations and focus on the experiences in the present, letting go of the negative parts of the past, looking forward to the journey of life you still have ahead of you.

TIP #7—Maintain a Sense of Humor & Fun

Maintaining a sense of humor and fun are primary strategies for redesigning your holiday feelings. The ability to laugh at yourself and find humor in situations, releases negative stress physically and emotionally. Just as planning is important, spontaneity is also important at holidays and anytime. If you’re feeling down, call someone on the “spur of the moment” to do something just for fun.

Give yourself permission to experience enjoyable interactions. Don’t forget, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” (Victor Hugo)

TIP # 8—Give & Receive Encouragement

Words and actions are powerful tools which can contribute to both negative and positive environments especially during the holidays. Take a holiday from negative, lazy, “four letter” words and replace them with positive words and actions of encouragement. Receive and give support and give the gift of a sincere compliment to someone who has completed a task well done. Remember, “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.”


Barbara is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addictions Counselor, trainer, professional speaker, and “Second Half of Life” success coach with over 30 years of experience in the areas of treatment, prevention and training.

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Posted: November 20, 2015   Accessed 254 times

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