Yup, the American holiday season is creeping up on us so, I thought I would get this post up before all of us are waist high in the season. Where has this year gone? My paternal grandmother used to always tell me the older you get the faster time flies. Her theory which I believe, is that as we age, time seems to go faster since more of it is behind us than ahead of us.
Another reason for this post, is a conversation I had with a client a few days ago, regarding this issue. My client shared with me that she had noticed in both her support group and herself, the everyone was feeling down in the dumps, depressed and extremely emotional. she further stated that she was especially feeling emotional & raw, plus she had just realized that morning that November had arrived.
I agree with her, that for many Americans the time frame between the beginning of November and the first part of January is rough on many levels. Studies and my own experiences both professionally and personally show this to be true as well.
Contary to the holidays movies, most Americans don’t have that ideal/Hollywood fantasy life to begin with, much less so when the holidays roll around. Along with the pressure to be the perfect host/hostess, attend every event, keep that happy face/persona and enjoy every moment is a lot to expect of anyone. I’m tired already, how about you?
For those who are struggling with mental or physical issues, financial or family issues the holidays add extra stressors. Besides the increase in depression during the holidays, is the occurrence of holiday fatigue and it isn’t just with children, adults often have this as well. We can recognize holiday fatigue in kids as easily upset, extra crying/tantrums and just not being themselves. Actually, it’s not that much different in adults, we have just been taught how to mask it. But should we just mask it, fake it till the holidays are over or acknowledge these issues?
I’ve always held to the belief that if you need a break, plan to have some space & time to yourself, to both regroup and rest. There’s nothing wrong with doing this and remembering to take care of yourself. I discuss the importance of self care in my blog post, “Where are you on your list?” While self care is important all year round, it is especially important during stressful times in our lives including the holidays.
Also, think about how many & which holiday events & activities are important to you. Do you really need to accept every invite that you are invited? I know it may be tough to turn down some of them, but for our own mental and physical health it may be something to consider. Think of alternative plans & activities, including staying at home in your pjs. Down time can be considered an alternative plan or activity.
A prior boss who I worked for about 20 yrs ago, used to rotate holidays. For example, she & her husband would spend Thanksgiving one year with family and the next year by themselves and do a similar rotation with other holidays. They would even rotate the year they were participating in a holiday with family, hosting duties as well. Sometimes we forget the host/hostess might need a break as well.
Even rotating which events and activities that you attend every year, can also be both a great stress reliever and make the holiday season more relaxed & enjoyable. For example maybe attend Joe’s party this year, skip Susie’s & next year host to give both Jo & Susie a much needed break. The following year you might feel more up to attending both or attend Susie’s event. I’ve known those who do the hosting can easily get caught up in wishing to please everyone & invite one and all to the event. Tho, they are secretly hoping, not everyone shows. I’ll admit that I have done this myself. I think we all have from time to time.
A favorite way to spend the holidays for me is to travel. I LOVE going on vacation during holidays breaks such as Thanksgiving or X-mas. My family often used to this when I was a child & it could be quite fun. It can definitely be an alternative way to enjoy the holidays without the pressures of the holidays.
Depite the pressures and stress of the holidays, now is the time to start thinking about how you want to spend the season. Since my husband & I did lots of entertaining during the holidays last year, we are planning a low key and much needed relaxing season this year. Feel free to share your ideas and thoughts.
This is always a somewhat controversial subject when I bring it up to clients, friends & family. Mainly due to the fact that it is so very ingrained in us, at least in Western Society. Guilt truly isn’t an emotion, no matter how one thinks about it.
I was first introduced to this concept, when I was a freshman at my local Jr College, straight out of high school, many decades ago. One day in my Psycholoy 1A class, Dr. David Hamilton, brought up this subject as the topic of class. He stated that this is often a topic that he brings up with his clients as part of therapy. It is a way to help them work through hurdles in their life.
Think about guilt and what an overwhelming impact it has on one’s life. I’m talking about guilt from an emotional perspective, not the legal definition. Where does it come from? How did we learn about the concept of guilt?
Guilt is basically a learned response taughtt to us as young children. Who taught us about guilt? Basically, we learned it from those who have power over us in our lives. As children it is often our parents/ other family members, religion, schools & others who are in charge. As we grow up and move through our lives, we are continually reminded of guilt from spouses/significant others, friends, government & society at large.
Guilt is tool used by those who have perceived power over us to keep their control over us. Letting go of guilt and owning the right to not feel guilty about anything is a very freeing experience. If one thinks about it, there are examples everywhere about this control. All one has to do is look around and listen.
The idea of not feeling guilty is also about owning one’s emotions. Meaning you are in charge of what you feel, when you feel it & why you feel it. Not being told “you should feel guilty about anything.” When you are owning your emotions, nobody can tell you how, why or where to feel an emotion. They’re your emotions, only YOU can dictate this for yourself.
So what does one feel when they remove guilt from their life? Basically free for one thing. To be yourself, freedom to express yourself, how you feel & not how you are told to feel. Such as, instead of guilty, true feelings, including sad, regretful, sorry, bad, remorseful for example. With the the key component of the statement being ” I feel” instead of “you should feel.”
This is not an easy way to be in the beginning, since it is so very indoctrinated in us. But if you decide to give it a try and stick to it. As, with many things in life, it will get easier with time. Remember how long you have been having this thought process.
I’ve been following this philosphy/way of thinking since Dr. Hamilton gave this lecture and have never looked back. I prefer owning my emotions and the freedom that comes with it to be genuine and real with the world.
As my week long vacation comes to an end, my thoughts are on returning to work refreshed and with a relaxed attitude. I am ready to tackle the world of work again.
I’m not one of those people who holds onto all my vacation time. I’m of the philosphy to use it as a precious commodity, a yearly gift. I understand the importance of needed breaks from work. Whether it be a mid week “Mental Health day”, a long weekend or a full week off. This is important for our mental, physical and soul health.
Over my lifetime and I’m sure most Americans have known people who brag about how they are saving their time for retirement or how they have never taken a sick day in their life. My response to them is always, “I’m sorry for you.” They are always surprised by my genuine response.
I geniunely do feel for them, since they are missing out on a vital component of life. Yes, I do understand about jobs that don’t give paid time off. I’ve had my share of them as well in my life time. I have learned in my life, that even with jobs that don’t give leave time, one can find creative ways to get extra time off.
Do/can you swap shifts or days with coworkers to get some time off? I have done this in the past. For those who have the paid time off and you aren’t using it, why not? Something I have learned over my decades of working is that the work will get done if we aren’t there. As valuable as we are or think we are to our employer, all of us replaceable. After all, when we retire or change jobs/positions someone else comes along to take our place.
I understand saving time to take that ultimate dream vacation, but still take the long weekend while you save the other time. Just remember to take some time off for yourself. It is the best gift you can give yourself & it keeps giving to those in your life, as well.
Studies have shown that time off is an important component of our health. The need to relax, play and reconnect with ourselves & the world around us. It can add years to our life, reduce our stress levels & improve our mental health. It doesn’t matter what you do with your time off. Whether you hang at home in your pjs (one of my favorites), hang out with friends, travel or whatever makes you happy, do it!
Are you taking your time off? If not, why not?
Settle/Settling, is a word that doesn’t exist in my vocabulary either professionally or personally. It’s most common meaning in American English is to be done and accept how things are & often used by people in power. Such as leaders, parents and others to convince someone to stop trying to move forward or to just accept things as they are, don’t try to change. I know it has other meanings as well, but in my line of work as well as in my personal life it is this definition that I just mentioned that is it’s common use.
When working with clients often they will feel frustrated when those whose opinions or support they trust state to them to “just settle.” It can be difficult to accept this as the answer(s) to situations in your life that you wish to change but you are getting neither guidance or understanding. It can feel like a glass ceiling and nobody is willing to hand you a hammer.
Over the years, I’ve had conversations with people who have stated, “at some point we all settle.” Do we?
That’s always the first thought that runs through my mind and often the question that frustrated clients will ask. I will then ask them, “is that what you want from life?” If the answer is no, then we proceed on how to best help them reach their definition of happiness and success and what those two words mean to them. Not what family, friends or society deem it to be but what is in their heart of hearts. If they are where they wish to be at this point in life, we can then proceed to other matters that they wish to discuss.
But the question that truly needs to be answered is “Don’t we all settle in the end?” I honestly don’t believe so. I do believe both professionally and personally that one of few things happen if we don’t settle.
1. Throughout life we reach plateaus where things are calm, almost resting moments. Which we all need in our journey through life.
2. When we finally reach the goals that we have set in life, we aren’t settling just reached that place of happiness and success.
3. Often when we reach our goals for those that don’t settle, they discover new goals that they wish to pursue. New avenues to continue moving forward. I’m not saying they abandon their point of happiness, just explore other avenues to continue growing.
So, where are you in your journey?
Happy September 1st everyone! Life has been hectic around here, so this blog is later than I was aiming to have posted.
Affirmations is a common counseling tool used across the board in the counseling world and I use it frequently with my clients. It has several main goals and purposes, but the two that I use it for the most when working with clients are self esteem issues and struggling through rough moments in life. There are other techniques as well, but I like the ease of daily usage, how easy this tool can become a habit and the immediacy of results it can provide.
When working with clients, the first step in the process is to identify a few issues that need to be worked on, such as reminding one that I can do whatever and I have the abilities to accomplish the goal. Such as, I am smart, I am capable, I have a beautiful voice, for example. I encourage them write down the same two affirmations on two separate sticky/post it notes. One will be placed on either the bathroom or bedroom mirror and the other somewhere they will see it frequently during the day when at home, such as by the door or on the fridge. Some clients will even place a third note on their work station as well. Every time you see these notes, you speak these words out loud or if at work to yourself. Once you believe one or both of these affirmations, You repeat the process of a new note with the next affirmations.
Clients are often amazed with both the simplicity, ease and results these techniques can provide. I’m a firm believer in simple and easy techniques when possible, life can be complicated enough without adding more complications to it. Give it a shot and let me know how this works for you.
I would definitely recommend reading this article, I found it very interesting .