5 Tips for Ensuring an Emotionally Healthy Christmas

Keep the holiday season merry, bright and stress-free with these easy ideas. 

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- Posted on Dec 6, 2019

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If you’re anything like me, you love the traditions, the lights, the color and the joyous anticipation the holiday season inevitably brings. For many of us, these special moments and time-honored traditions are tied to those we love most dearly. While these are the people that make up our most precious memories, close family and friends can often bring up…stuff. This is the stuff we wish were different, the stuff from the past, the stuff we don’t like about ourselves. Unfortunately this “stuff” can prevent us from enjoying the people we love most during the holidays. Here are some things that I am wishing for from myself this Christmas that may be helpful to you as you visit your own loved ones.

1. Know Thyself

Know your sensitive spots. What makes you hurt? When you feel that hurt, what kind of hurt do you feel? Inadequate? Unsafe? Rejected? Alone? Where might that have come from? Chances are, every time you feel emotional pain, you are feeling the same two or three feelings no matter how diverse the situation or the people involved. These “sensitive spots” tend to come from life circumstances or relationships gone awry. What are yours?

Knowing our pain and where it comes from provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and realize the real truth about our situation rather than placing blame where it doesn’t belong. Once we are able to grasp what button may have been pushed, we have to own it! Having the humility to recognize when you are being reactive as a result of your own pain is a gift you can give yourself and others. 

2. Give Grace

We all have these “sensitive spots” and we all have different ways we tend to cope with these feelings. Each one of our family and friends has their own pain and their own ways of coping. It’s no one’s fault, it just is. The best thing we can do for ourselves and others is to work on what’s on our own side of the fence and have compassion and understanding for what may be stirring on the other’s side. In doing this, we set the stage to enjoy peaceful interactions with our loved ones during the holidays.

3. Get clear on what you don’t do

Having healthy boundaries means knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” While not everyone experiences this as challenging, many of us have difficulty knowing when to say, “no.” Often, this is because we are haunted by the word, “should.” We carry expectations about what we should be doing during the holiday season to make the season special for our loved ones or to carry on tradition. Instead of focusing on what we need to do, it can be helpful to articulate the things we don’t do. It used to be important to me to handwrite all of the addresses for my Christmas cards. There was just something that felt more personal about a hand-addressed card. But in this season, I have to let that go and decide that handwritten cards now belong on the list of things I no longer do. This is just one small example and there are many others. But it can be so freeing to make a list of things that are not life giving and may be taking time from the events or relationships that do matter to you.

4. Don’t abandon the routine … completely

The holidays offer a perfect opportunity to break from our routine to rest and enjoy time with loved ones. But sometimes we can find ourselves living in extremes. We are rigid in routines and push ourselves, struggling to find the time or reason to rest. And then when it comes time to rest and enjoy, we abandon all routine and structure. But the reality is that our choices and rhythms around rest and how we fuel our bodies can have a profound impact on how we feel emotionally. Life usually works best when we can keep a little routine in our rest and keep a little rest in our routine. Rather than living in extremes, we are wise to maintain more balance all year round.

5. Make others feel special

Someone once told me that there are two mentalities you can bring to a party. You can have a “look at me” mentality. Or, you can have a “there you are” mentality. Insecurity pulls us into ourselves, making it difficult to experience genuine connection with others. But being confident in our own significance leads us to help others be confident in their own. Talking to people in a way that makes them feel like they are the only person in the room is the best way to work a room.

Nicole Zasowski is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “From Lost to Found.” She is based in the state of Connecticut where she lives with her husband and two sons. As an old soul who wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, Nicole loves using her words to help others find an enduring peace and joy outside of circumstance. 

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