Surviving Painful Holiday Emotions

Surviving Painful Holiday Emotions

There are numerous “shoulds" concerning how families and holidays should be. Families should care for one another. Families should work together. Holidays should be enjoyable.

Surviving Painful Holiday Emotions

There are numerous “shoulds" concerning how families and holidays should be: Families should care for one another. Families should work together. Holidays should be enjoyable. On the other hand, the reality is often significantly more complicated. Many individuals do not have loving parents, wonderful family memories, or pleasant holidays.

Holidays and families may easily set us off on a downward spiral of worry, guilt, and sorrow. Perhaps your parent or kid is cruel to you, or you have an aggressive alcoholic relative who makes everyone nervous, or you have experienced abuse or neglect and the holidays cause you to feel miserable, or you feel lonely even though people — even individuals you love — are all around you. These types of incidents are prevalent and may make the holidays difficult.

We might either ignore or treat our uncomfortable inner battles to get through them.  Or we can cope with Christmas stress in positive activities that can enhance our health and quality of life.

How to Overcome Negative Holiday Thoughts

The Change Triangle is a technique used to guide the clients in dealing with emotions and minimising them. The stages of “working the triangle" are as follows:

  • Recognising what you are feeling
  • Taking a moment to breathe and unwind
  • Identifying the fundamental feelings, you are going through a time
  • Listening (judgment-free) to what your thoughts are telling you
  • Thinking on how to progress

Instead of repressing underlying emotions like anger and sorrow, which intensify anxiety and depression when dismissed, the Change Triangle teaches us how to recognise and be with our thoughts to remain connected to ourselves.

Source - VICE


Christopher grew up in a grim and unhappy home. Therapy and wise decisions helped immensely, and he was living a content life – until November. Then, as if on cue, his anxiety surged, and his mood sunk. Seeing his coworkers and buddies cheerful and enthusiastic about Christmas made him feel even worse. The holidays brought back memories of childhood disappointment.

Chris was genuinely sad about a genuine loss – the loss of the family he had always desired but never had. Christopher needs encouragement and support to experience the grief that naturally comes with loss. Anxiety lessens when individuals feel their emotions rather than suppress them. By utilising the Change Triangle, Christopher began to honour his melancholy rather than dreading and avoiding it. He found solace when he enabled himself to be unhappy and even weep. He got through the Christmas season by acknowledging his sentiments, being kind and sympathetic to his anguish, and telling himself that the holidays would soon end and his mood would brighten.


Alison had a strong relationship with the majority of the members of her family. But she despised her brother’s wife, who was cruel to her. Alison was terrified just thinking about being near or in the same area with her sister-in-law.

Alison adopted the Change Triangle to devise new coping techniques for being in the presence of her sister-in-law. In real-time, she actively dealt with her emotions. When she became aware of her anxiety, she would devote empathetic attention to the anxious feelings in her chest while breathing deeply.

She also worked hard to identify and accept the underlying feelings of sorrow, rage, and fear. She didn’t criticise her feelings since she understood that “emotions simply exist" – they happen independently. Alison, for example, acknowledged and validated her inner anger each time her anxiety grew by simply telling herself, “I feel furious, which makes perfect sense because my sister-in-law is rude." Simply expressing that brief remark has managed to calm her down. It didn’t make her angry, but it did make her feel less apprehensive at the time.

Alison withdrew herself to have some solitude when her rage was highly intense. Then she focused on releasing some energy in her body caused by anger by jotting down whatever she hoped to say to her sister-in-law. The objective was to get over the day without resorting to harmful numbing or causing a commotion.

Here are five ideas to keep you going throughout the holidays:

  1. Don’t try to hide your feelings. Instead, you should identify and verify them.
  2. Be kind to yourself. Reconsider if you are being too harsh with yourself or condemning yourself, and then be sympathetic toward your sorrow. Talk to yourself in the same manner you would talk to your closest friend.
  3. Remind yourself that feelings are fleeting, although it may feel like they will eternally last.
  4. Remember to establish limits and boundaries in a gentle but firm manner. Don’t allow yourself to be mistreated. Even if it is never simple, we can all grow to adapt to it. For example, you may respond, “If you continue to criticise me, I will have to resign."
  5. Experiment with different techniques. Family members are often trapped in roles. For example, Alison should experiment to win over her sister-in-law. It is advised that she approaches her, stare into her eyes, and find anything to praise her on; her hair, jewellery, clothes, shoes, and so on. You will regain control by choosing the high road. If it doesn’t work, expressing in a quarrel, “We simply have to agree to disagree," maybe a neutral way to end a conflict.

Finally, remember that you are not alone if the holidays are difficult for you. The holidays evoke a wide range of emotions in all of us. However, it is how we utilise our feelings, not whether we have them, is how it dictates our destiny.

We may healthily manage our unpleasant holiday feelings if we have a broad awareness of emotions, a desire to work with them, and the bravery to try something new.


Source: National Alliance of Mental Illness

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