The holidays are a special time of the year for a lot of us. For others it is a very difficult time. Every year around this time I notice the number on my caseload increases, not decreases. Family stress and conflict, financial strain, busy schedules, and social pressures can be more overwhelming during the holidays. Please remember you are not alone. Here are some tips to help get you thru the holiday season.
“Get over it” is the worst thing we can say to ourselves or say to each other. I have heard various versions of this phrase working with families and individuals. Family members and loved ones may tell a person with upset emotions to “cheer up”, “get over it”, or “move on”. Although it is used to motivate or encourage the upset individual, these phrases have a way of shaming as well. These words can create greater individual upset and distress.
I am here to tell you to be upset. Be angry. Be sad. Be frustrated. Yell. Cry. Isolate. Whatever you feel is 100% OK. A mature and well-functioning person should be able to regulate emotions. In other words it is average for people to experience emotional upset but not sacrifice relationships or jobs and not cause harm to self or others. However when feelings are not managed correctly relationships and jobs may suffer and there may be emotional or physical harm to others. Rather to avoid feelings and try to “get over it” it is best to feel and deal with it!
Some emotions and situations are very difficult to just “get over”. A depressed person cannot get up and go enjoy activities. An anxious person cannot stop worrying. It is a shame we have made feelings such an insignificant matter. Feelings are very important and I am here to say, “You don’t have to get over yet”!
When feelings are shamed and ultimately suppressed the feeling only grows and gets bigger. Imagine an area rug in the middle of a hardwood floor. The floor around the rug is dusty so you sweep the dust under the rug. This is what happens when people are not allowed to express or feel their emotions. The dust is still there. You may try to ignore feelings but they are still there. Continue to sweep the dust under the rug and eventually the rug will no longer be able to contain the dirt and the dust will be exposed. Sadly when the dust is exposed it is a much bigger mess. The same is true for feelings. If feelings are suppressed long enough they will struggle to be maintained, the feelings will explode, and there will be emotional and perhaps physical harm to self and others.
Although the feeling is ok, feelings become dangerous, scary, and unmanageable when they are not addressed. If you have a loved one with upset emotions acknowledge them and let them know you see how they feel. Let them know that what they feel is ok and they can take their time to feel better. Let them know you are there to help them come up with ways and explore ways to make the feelings decrease. Tell them you see them and you see how they feeling.
If you have upset emotions feeling them may seem overwhelming. Perhaps you feel if you start crying you will never stop crying. Or perhaps you feel if you no longer worry you will no longer be in control. Remember the feeling does not control you. You CONTROL the feeling. You can choose to feel sad and worried and you can choose to feel happy and relaxed. You have the right to do something to improve your situation. Try talking to someone. Sometimes simply verbalizing how you feel is enough to feel better. Write down how you feel. This will help you identify how you feel but also helps express any thoughts that are contributing to the upset.
Feelings are like a wave in the ocean. At times they will appear very large but eventually the wave crashes and the water is calm again. The same is true for emotions. At times they will seem very large but eventually the feeling will decrease and things will be calm again. Feelings come and go. You are not bound to feeling depressed, anxious, angry, stressed, and scared if you deal with feelings rather than ignore them, and eventually you will “get over it!”