The holidays can be a fun-filled time for many, but for some the idea of participating in the merriment of holiday festivities, whether at work, at family gatherings, or other social events can trigger a reindeer in the headlights response. The idea of having to make small talk with strangers, fielding intrusive questions from extended family members about your relationship status, wondering how other people are silently judging you and whether your ugly sweater is ugly enough not to be mistaken for unfortunate fashion sense. These thoughts often create feelings of anxiety, which can be a real humbug.
Here are four ways to approach merry making with mindfulness:
1. Stop letting your thoughts control you
You don't have to automatically buy into your life-limiting thoughts about how you shouldn't go, how you might appear weird, or any of the millions of thoughts that might run through your mind when you start to imagine the worst. We don't listen to some other thoughts we might have (like I should punch this person in the face, or I wonder what would happen if I threw this food on the wall). Yes, we all have crazy random thoughts and we don't always do what they say. So you don't have to listen to the thoughts that tell you to be afraid or that you will be judged.
2. Accept how you feel
It’s okay to feel anxious. Many people experience anxiety. When we try to push away or avoid our feelings they get worse and often they come back stronger. Sooner or later you will have to deal with them anyway. It might be hard to sit with and feel your anxiety but it is possible, and if you let it, that anxiety will most likely dissipate on its own. With this acceptance, offer yourself kindness in the fact that many people feel anxiety around the holidays and in social situations particularly. You are human and it is okay to feel what you feel.
3. Think about your values
You aren’t obligated to attend every party. Think about your values; how do you want to be in these situations? Let these qualities lead your actions. Maybe you choose to say yes to one party because you want to be dependable to your friends and coworkers, but you choose to say no to another party because you want to engage in self-care. You can clarify your values by thinking about who you want to be and how you want to behave in specific areas of your life such as your personal life, your work life, your physical health, etc.
4. Offer yourself some self-compassion
Holidays are stressful and making choices to attend events that might not be that much fun is tough. Instead of beating yourself up about why you’re making such a big deal over nothing, offer yourself some gentle kindness and take a moment to put your hand over your heart to acknowledge that it is hard, and you’re doing your best.
Implementing these key mindfulness components can make a great impact on how you experience the joy of the season. The holidays can bring with it painful experiences like anxiety, depression, and often those experiences are followed by all manner of avoidant behaviors. Ultimately, mindfulness allows you to be fully present and engaged in the life you choose rather than running from one that you imagine. So stay mindful this holiday season!
Written by Monti Pal, LPC
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Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.