Tis the Season for Ups and Downs – tips for making the downs more
We all know the holidays are stressful. Whether you love them or dread
them, each of us will find ourselves in at least a few moments of feeling
overwhelmed, and sometimes disappointed. With all that goes into the holidays
and the high level of expectation, who wouldn’t occasionally feel down?
For many, this will be a time when a reliance on drugs and alcohol can
become elevated and manifest in some negative outcomes. At Thelma McMillen
we see a significant surge in consultations in the month of January, primarily
fueled by family dynamics that come to light during the holidays. If that
is the case for your family, know that you are not alone. We are here
for you to help determine the best path forward for you or a loved one.
Here are some suggested strategies to help you avoid the holiday pitfalls
that are so common and that can lead to excessive substance use and damage
to our relationships and overall wellness:
1) We now know that much of our happiness depends upon our attitude, how
we manage our expectations, and that we listen to our authentic selves.
How we put that into practice is to be sure we are listening to our real
feelings and not squelching them; that we have an attitude of gratitude
around the things in our lives that are going well; and that we expect
and accept that nothing will ever be perfect, including the parties we
throw or attend, the people in our lives, and ourselves. That’s OK!
2) Be sure to carve out time to be consistent in the activities and relationships
during the holiday that bring you joy, whether it’s sticking with
your usual workout, walking with friends, or taking a moment to have a
mindfulness walk along the beach. When we drop these grounding rituals
in our effort to squeeze everything in, we definitely throw ourselves
out of balance.
3) The holidays can bring both joy and stress. But when there are unresolved
relationships dynamics and issues with our friends and family, the holidays
provide fertile ground for tensions and blowups. Rather than choosing
to just push past those feelings in an effort to get through it, take
the time to really listen to yourself and become attune to emotions that
might sneak up on you in a bad moment. Know it’s ok to not be feeling
the holiday bliss.
4) As far as feeling a holiday buzz goes, we don’t have anything
new for you here. The tried and true method of using moderation if you
are someone who has a good relationship with alcohol is the way to avoid
holiday regret, either in terms of the aftermath you might suffer physically
or emotionally. And if you know you have issues with alcohol, stay strong
in your resolve by having a plan and a list of tools to rely upon.
5) Lastly, there really is something magical about the spirit of giving
to others. To find empathy in others’ situations or perspectives,
and to broaden our focus beyond our own personal wants or self-criticisms
is scientifically proven to reduce our depression and anxiety, and boost
With all of that in mind, all of us at the Thelma McMillen Center wish
you and yours a healthy and fulfilling holiday season and a happy New Year!
Moe Gelbart, PhD
Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center