No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, the holidays can be a trying time. In our greeting cards, we wish warm wishes and in gatherings, we express words of joy and happiness. But when it comes down to it, the season can actually be filled with stress, painful nostalgia and loneliness.
My family has been separated and yet grown through divorce, physical distance, new marriages, new children and new ‘busyness’. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – even the weeks leading up to Christmas – we scatter and huddle, scatter and huddle, doing our best to join different parts of the family for different celebrations. We rejoice with those we see – and feel guilt for the ones we’re not able to connect with.
Whether you’re harboring guilt, loneliness, dealing with your own addiction or addiction of a loved one, depression, anxiety or isolation – know that it doesn’t do you or your family any good to show up in a fragmented version of yourself. Whether you’re struggling physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually – here are a few ways to find peace and comfort through the chaos of the holiday season:
In the time of social media, having reasonable expectations isn’t necessarily easy: We see advertisements with cozy fires, perfectly arranged table settings and gorgeous decorations. We see photos of our friends gathered with loved ones, videos of young children unwrapping gifts, messages of love and delight.
If you or your family is struggling with addiction or other pains right now, these types of settings and scenes may not be in the cards right now. Perhaps success looks like a card and a hug from someone you love. Maybe it’s a quiet dinner instead of a big family gathering. It’s ok to stray from what seems to be the ‘norm’. It’s important to note, however, that expecting failure or disappointment isn’t the same as keeping expectations in check.
It’s easy to get caught up in the ups and downs of the season – especially when there is addiction involved. When we attach ourselves to things in order to feel pleasure or avoid pain – we create our own emotional suffering; We fear losing the things that bring us pleasure, lose sight of what’s important and can even become greedy.
Take a reality check and stay true to the things that matter to you this holiday season.
Do the best you can.
I am the first to admit that I often fall in the internal guilt-trip trap. Along with my expectations for my family and holiday experience, my expectations for myself are set very high: I hate the feeling of saying, “Merry Christmas, I love you,” over the phone – rather than in person. But, sometimes, it’s not realistic to spend time with every single person you love and care about. Allow yourself self-care – and the assurance that you are doing the best you can in the situation that you are in. No one else should expect any more than that – and neither should you.
In the core of our programs at all of our campus, we utilize Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a cognitive behavioral treatment that is recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for disorders including drug and alcohol addictions, depression and anxiety and PTSD.
One of the key skills included in DBT is mindfulness – the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment. Being present at the holidays isn’t just about your physical location – it’s about mentally and emotionally being exactly where you are. Don’t obsess over what the day has already brought or what the rest will hold. Leave your cell phone in the other room and treasure the time and conversations you have with loved ones. You won’t regret it.
Create your own tradition.
At Vertava Health, we talk a lot about self-care – how important it is to have your own boundaries and value what makes you, you. If a loved one is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, self-care can be one of the most difficult tasks in the world, as you want to care for them over yourself.
Self-care during the holidays can mean finding something that is uniquely your own: A way for you to set aside time and energy to celebrate the significance of the season in a way that is special to you. Maybe it’s trying a new recipe, painting a picture, or listening to your favorite Christmas album by the fireplace. Your tradition may be influenced by family members, but it isn’t necessarily defined by them. Your tradition will help you to keep in mind who you are and what you care about.
Focus on lasting meaning.
You probably know by now that happiness is temporary. We can try every single day to make ourselves happy – but ultimately, only a small amount of this mood state is truly under our control. Instead of focusing on something temporary, it can be more beneficial to work towards the things that are lasting.
What’s meaningful to you this holiday season? Is it helping others and volunteering your time? Creativity? A certain relationship? Devote your time and energy to these pursuits in order to make you feel more grounded – despite the ups and downs of the season.
So often, it’s easy to get caught up in our own struggles; feeling as though we are different from everyone else and that no one else could understand the problems or traumas we’ve faced. However, believing that we’ve been wronged enhances justification for destructive behaviors.
You’re more helpful to others if you chose to be thankful – and you’re also more helpful to yourself.
Cultivate gratitude by embracing the little things this holiday season: The excitement of children at the mall, ready to see Santa. The smile you get from the bagger at the grocery store when you donate a dollar to a charity. The way the sun bounces off the frosty lawns in the morning. Take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you were grateful for in that moment – jot it down in a journal or make a mental note. It may feel awkward at first, but once you start looking for it – you will find it.
Whether it’s in the mall parking lot, in line to pick up groceries, or dealing with an addicted loved one’s irrational behavior – frustration can quickly escalate this time of year. Do your best to give grace to those around you by recognizing that everything can’t be perfect all the time. This is true for others as well as yourself.
Allow yourself to find patience with your addicted loved one – and yourself. There is freedom in knowing that instead of trying to be perfect, you can instead, try to be good. And we’re rooting for you on that.
At Vertava Health, we’re wishing you the warmest wishes for a mindful, meaningful holiday season that brings peace and comfort. We’re here to help, 24/7. Give us a call at 888-614-2251.