The holiday season is upon us. From Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukkah to the New Year. For some, this can be a joyous experience, full of happy memories, traditions, and family. For many others, it is a time of grief, disconnection, and fear of what is to come. No matter which side you find yourself, (or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle), the pressure of what we should be feeling and experiencing is present. This “Season of Shoulds” can leave us feeling all the shoulds we strive for: we should decorate, we should be able to get the expensive gift our kid wants, we should bake cookies and make unforgettable memories, we should look a certain way and so much more.
What I would like to offer you is an alternative perspective to this culturally imposed shoulds and the ever-present internal pressure to be someone or do something that may not be the right thing for you. Here are four (4) things to keep in mind this season.
1. Do What Works for You
We are more than ever inundated with messages of how we should feel or behave by social media and the commercial industry. We cannot escape it. This makes it all that much harder to not fall captive to the demands they give. However, remember, whether it be the holidays or not, it is always ok, in fact best, to do what works for you. It is by listening to your own needs that brings a sense of calm and peace. You are allowed to say no to that Christmas party, change how you and your family celebrate this year or even choose to not get gifts for everyone. Their reaction is not your responsibility, but your actions are.
2. Notice the Small Things
I find that our minds can feel cluttered this time of year. The balancing act of endless to-do lists can be exhausting and overwhelming. Perhaps you have felt this and noticed the urge to shut down to stop time for just a little bit. In those moments, stop and noticing the small things. Light your favorite candle and take a deep breath. Turn the fireplace on and drink a hot cup of tea under a warm blanket. Turn on your favorite song in the car as you sit in the parking lot. Enjoy the warm snuggles of your little ones and pets or stand outside in the cold air and breath it in. Whatever you choose, notice the body and what may be whispering back to you. Our body can ground us, tell us what we are needing and rejoice with us when we listen.
3. It’s OK to not be OK
You are allowed to not feel the “holiday cheer”. You may be in a season of loss or struggling with your mental health, or relationships. No emotion is bad. They are neither good nor bad, they just are. Emotions come and go and being attentive to the entirety of our experience is important. If you are not OK, notice what you are. Give that experience space to just be and honor the process.
4. Remember Your Support System
As you are attending and caring for yourself, remember the support system you have around you. Perhaps it is family members, friends, those with whom you participate in a hobby. Ask for what you need and keep trying. Reach out to your therapist or medical professional. We are a community of people—however alone you may feel, you are not.
I hope you choose YOU this Season. Do what works, notice the small things, give space to all the emotions and thoughts, and remember those around you who are there for you.
Written by: Rebekah Tchouta, LCSW
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