Think of the Holidays as you would a magnifying glass. Certainly for many, the holidays are a time of heightened or magnified enjoyment, good cheer and joy, but for others, those experiencing loss, unresolved grief, disappointment, isolation, loneliness, depression or anxiety, the magnifying glass accentuates the pain in their lives. What many don’t realize is that it’s not the circumstances of our lives that create depression and struggle; it’s how we react to these circumstances. Depression victimizes you with feelings of despair, hopelessness, and negativity.
I often quote my grandmother who was fond of saying, “You can’t stop a bird from flying into your hair, but you don’t have to help it build a nest.” You may not be able to stop a negative thought from percolating up into your mind, but you don’t have add a second destructive thought or a third, or fourth. According to my Self-Coaching philosophy, depression and anxiety are habits, habits that you either feed with destructive, insecurity-driven thinking or starve by learning to take charge of your thoughts and not permit any “nest building.”
Here are a few Self-Coaching tips if you suffer from holiday blues:
1. Let go of any depressive or anxious thoughts. You may not be used to letting go of destructive, insecurity-driven thoughts, but like a head cold, if you turn away and ignore your sniffles and sore throat, you’ll feel much better than if you focus or dwell on them. Here’s a self-coaching visualization. Imagine that you’re holding a bunch of helium filled balloons. Each balloon represents a negative or insecure thought. One by one, see yourself letting go of each balloon. Watch it slowly float up into the sky, shrinking, vanishing.
2. Don’t anticipate. Anticipation can leave you vulnerable to disappointment or unexpected changes. Instead of anticipating or scripting your holidays, let them unfold. When you allow yourself to project insecurity forward, i.e., “I’m going to be miserable this holiday season”, (I call this time-traveling) you’re literally hypnotizing yourself to be miserable. Don’t do it!
3. Avoid unrealistic expectations–no holiday hype! Don’t pressure yourself. Leave the Yule-log-image of the holidays to Hall Mark or Hollywood. Look to the simple, realistic treasures that do exist in your life. With depression, the tendency is to see only the negatives. This is a distortion. Just as there are poisonous snakes in the woods, so too are there magnificent flowers, trees, streams and birds. What you focus on depends on you.
4. Try not to micro-manage the holidays with excessive details such as shopping, cooking, wrapping, etc. Take a step back and see the bigger picture that family, volunteering, or helping out in a shelter can provide.
5. Monitor your drinking and eating. Holidays are not an excuse to over indulge. This can be especially true if you’re depressed and using food or drink to elevate your mood. Avoid unnecessary guilt and self-loathing by making conscious and deliberate choices rather than yielding to impulsive binging.