• Eleanor Shao

What to do when the Holidays bring up Negative Feelings or Memories


Movies, music and the media all seem to feed us a very specific image of Christmas, and how one should spend their time during the holidays. The recurring images of happy family gatherings, present exchanges, laughter and smiles may be difficult to relate to if our circumstances don’t fit those scenarios. Worse still, the holidays may remind us of a time where this was the case before some change occurred, which may make this festive season that much harder to endure. This might in turn make us feel even more alone in our situations, and make the month of December something to dread. So, what are some things we can do to take back the holidays?


1. Stay present and grounded

As we reminisce events of the past, it can bring up feelings that may be painful but keep us stuck in the past. Similarly, a constant rumination of worries about the future is also unlikely to be an efficient use of our time, and can make us feel like we don’t have control over our lives. When the holidays are involved, memories of the past are often more likely to arise. That’s why staying in the moment, and paying attention to what we are feeling in the moment - without confusing it with what we might’ve experienced when we were younger, or what we expect or fear to experience when we are older – can help with managing our feelings and expectations for the Christmas period.


However, that isn’t to say to block all memories and restrict yourself from thinking back or feeling anything, which can do more harm than good in the long-term. Engaging with those thoughts in feelings in a more calm and present manner can help. Practicing mindfulness can be effective here, in identifying, observing, and holding the feeling that arises without judgement, but not letting that thought whisk you away.


2. Connect with the things, people, and activities you currently love

Make more time to spend with your inner circle – the people who you love and make you feel good, the activities that get you excited about life, or even the objects that bring joy to your life. This can help remind you that there are, in fact, other things to your life outside of the disparity between reality and what we might be expecting our holidays to be like. Pampering yourself in activities like these will help to lift your mood a little when you might be feeling down, but it can also remind you that you have found things to appreciate and to look forward to, despite any hardships that you may have experienced. This feeling may help to reinforce a positive perception of having control over our lives.


3. Talk to someone about it

Whether it be your friends, a stranger on a night out, or even yourself through journalling - talking to someone about it can help take some of the weight off your chest, and might also reveal that others might be experiencing similar feelings, despite having different situations.


However, if the holiday-related angst is a recurring and a very difficult time for you, it may be worth seeking out professional help to give you the tools you need to handle these tougher periods of the year. For example, if the holidays have become tinged with an upsetting memory, or have become synonymous with grieving for a loved one, and these feelings are (understandably) too hard to handle on your own, give yourself the permission to seek help for it.


We hope this article has helped in creating a conversation about what is perhaps not talked about enough - in that everyone has a very different experience of the holidays, and it isn't always all sunshines and rainbows as commonly portrayed by the media. Feel free to leave a comment on what you do to help yourself in these situations!

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