The holidays are upon us, and your calendar may be filling up with parties, family gatherings, and seasonal celebrations. Some of us look forward to these events while others may dread them. For some people, the dread stems from having to interact with someone they are uncomfortable with, being surrounded by circumstances that can trigger an addiction, or reminders of difficult times in the past such as trauma or bereavement.
Regardless of circumstance or experience, there are ways one can prepare to cope or move through challenging times. Here are a few that I would consider:
1. Make plans in advance. Sometimes, a good way to avoid an uncomfortable event is to schedule something else. The holidays are a great time to establish new traditions with chosen friends and family — or a new tradition of spending the holiday with a favorite book or movie.
2. Set a social timer. If you don’t want to miss an event altogether but are confident you won't enjoy it, consider having a set time to arrive and depart. And if you already have other obligations before or after the event, don’t let the festivity dictate your time. It’s OK to step away to care for a pet or for other plans.
3. Make time for yourself. When at an event, there’s no requirement to be present the entire time. Step away for fresh air, to catch up with another attendee you want to see, or to spend a few moments alone. If someone is trying to monopolize your attention, saying, “It’s great to see you. Would you excuse me? I need to get something/say hi to someone I haven’t seen in a while,” is a convention that is usually well received.
Regardless of the activity, remember the season's events are activities you can choose to appreciate and participate in as much or as little as you like.
Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.
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