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Handling Holiday Anxiety and Depression

sad snowmanHolidays can be a very challenging time of year for many people. Coping with the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or other stressful events can make holidays almost unbearable. However, before your resign yourself to a permanent meh feeling this holiday season, be aware that there are ways to handle holiday anxiety and depression.

Holiday Anxiety Quiz

Answer True or False to the following:

  1. When I see the inflatable Santas for sale on November first, I want to smack someone.  T/F
  2. Thoughts of the merry season trigger feelings of gloom or panic.  T/F
  3. I’d like to skip this year’s festivities and go straight to the new year. Better yet, Easter. Or, even better yet, the Monday after Easter.  T/F
  4. I left last year’s lights up so I wouldn’t have to unwind them again.  T/F
  5. I picture myself surrounded by family for a big meal, and I start to break out in hives.  T/F
  6. I picture myself having holiday frozen pizza with my cat, and I start to cry or make myself a martini.  T/F
  7. I dread losing control of all my good dietary habits during the holidays.  T/F
  8. The season of festivities reminds me of people who’ve died, relationships that have ended, and opportunities I’ve squandered.  T/F
  9. Other people seem to have way more fun, closeness, and adventure this time of year than I have.  T/F
  10. With the world in such chaos, it’s hard for me to think about buying gifts for people who don’t really need anything – or planning feasts for people who aren’t hungry – or hanging out with people who make me itch.  T/F

Quiz Results

Tally up your Ts. If you have four or more, you probably need a lot of the following:  rest, meditation, slowness, coloring, hugs, warm baths, leafy green food, sitting in boats, time with your dog, herbal tea, quiet talks with a trusted friend, hikes in the woods, stretching, fuzzy slippers, and movement of all kinds.

Why am I saying this? Not to overwhelm you with more to-dos. You need (and probably crave)  intensive self care because holidays trigger a set of expectations called cultural controlling images that consume energy and block creativity.

Researchers at Wellesley College use this term to describe mental pictures that rob us of the present moment. These pictures form around all types of institutions:  religions, relationships, jobs/professions, commerce, and family life.

Controlling images proliferate in television, social media, and our memories and imaginations. They compel us to seek good feelings by looking outside ourselves, and they encourage us to try to replicate those images to validate our existence. Click here for more information on cultural controlling images and the Relational-Cultural Theory.

My Gift to You

Controlling holiday images tend to work against us. In reality, the best kind of holiday allows us to be truly authentic in any given moment, to enjoy an inner life that’s peaceful, thankful, and inspired. You need and deserve a day (or a week) for quiet, a day for laughter, a day for journaling, or a day for staring at a fire and doing absolutely nothing. Any obligation that tugs you further away from a peaceful inner life is an obligation you may want to question.

So, here’s my present for you this year: permissionPermission to meditate instead of decorate. Permission to stay instead of go. Permission to accept your authentic self, no matter how you feel right now. You are loved and enough, just as you are.

If you still feel like you’re struggling this holiday season, don’t be afraid to reach out. As a psychologist and EMDR therapist, I am fully trained to help you. You can contact me through my website or call (417) 886-8262.

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