I’m not sure what to expect during the holidays this year… A BIG piece will be missing. A whole person. My son. Our Fred.
But I know I’m not the only one who will be dipping into the low end of the emotional scale this Christmas. As a Canadian expat living in Abu Dhabi, I have many friends and neighbours who will be staying in our host country for the holidays. Separated from aging parents, busy adult children, and sprouting grandchildren, the sadness and loneliness will not be less significant for these sweet souls than the sorrow I feel for my own departed child.
So, this post is for those of us who might need a hack or two to make it through the holidays without resorting to comfort food therapy.
Write Them Out
When we feel uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions, it’s helpful and healthy to acknowledge them. Too many of us have a habit of discounting feelings because it seems easier than dealing with them. In the long run, it’s not. Every single emotion is valid and when it is not expressed, it gets trapped in our body and becomes the diseases we try so hard to avoid.
TIP: If low vibrational emotions bubble up during the holidays, dump them onto paper. You can write words or scribble or doodle. Once you’re done, it’s your masterpiece. Feel free to keep it or shred it.
Emotions are contagious whether we intentionally share them or not. Too often though, when we feel down, we think we’ll dampen someone’s mood if we share our grey cloud with them. So, we refrain from reaching out. The fact of the matter is that family and friends want to know when we’re not feeling upbeat. They want to be there for us.
TIP: Choose the right person to share your emotions with. You want to open up to a good listener. That person knows how to show empathy. You want to stay away from the well-meaning souls who over react or will attempt to fix or smother you.
Grab a box of three-ply’s and a blankie and open the dam! Although scientists have yet to agree on what crying accomplishes physiologically and psychologically, it feels good to let the tears spill.
TIP: As with the previous tip, you may want to cry with someone but make sure that person is not going to beg you to stop crying because it makes her feel uneasy.
Wallow in Your Emotional Puddle
Yes, wallow power, not will power, helps us emerge from our emotional mud. Contrary to what society will have us believe, forcing ourselves to “get over” sadness or loneliness is not a sign of emotional competency or strength. When we give ourselves permission to throw our own poor me, pity me, party, the limbic brain’s survival mechanism automatically kicks in. In that moment, we have the option and opportunity to bounce back emotionally.
TIP: While you’re mucking up in the mud, limit yourself to ‘poor me’ statements. Keep away from asking yourself ‘why’ questions – ex. Why did I move here? Why didn’t anybody find it in their heart to call me? etc. – because you’ll only make things worse. Your poor me, pity me, party should not last longer than three to four days and once you’re done, move on. If you find yourself lingering a little too long, make sure to reach out.
Connect Through Technology
Recently, I coached a client who felt deeply saddened to have not been able to spend as much time as she had hoped with her favourite cousin while on a pre-Christmas trip. During our call, she spilled her emotions and, from her lighter state, realized that if she and her cousin could work out a convenient schedule across the time zones, a regular video call would go a long way to compensating for the distance.
TIP: Get creative when connecting with loved ones over the web. Pretend you’re on a date! When the time is right, I occasionally pour myself a glass of wine as if I’m out at a bistro with my friend or sister…in my pajama bottoms. Keep in mind others may have multiple commitments during the holidays so setting a time will set you up for a satisfying virtual visit rather than calling out of the blue and feeling even lonelier when no one is there to answer.
In addition to helping to still our hyper active minds, meditation is an effective way to feel the emotions that are brewing within. Even though somewhat uncomfortable, this physical connection to our low-vibration emotions is actually one of the keys to releasing them and making room for the higher vibrational ones.
TIP: The internet abounds with guided meditations and meditation music if you feel the need for an accompaniment. One of my favourite sites is OMG I Can Meditate, check it out! Or, you may be the type who prefers silence. That’s alright too. The important thing is to be patient with yourself while you test drive a few approaches and find what best suits your preferences.
Having time off to enjoy the holidays is fantastic but those of us who will have too much idle time are at risk of a hyperactive monkey mind. Another hack to channel our mental energy is to take on a creative project. Whether it’s crafts, music, writing, woodworking, painting, sewing, cooking, photography, genealogy, etc. any enjoyable pursuit that requires concentration can be highly rewarding and fun!
TIP: Plan ahead. Maybe you want try something new, maybe you want to take out an old project that’s been on the shelf for too long. Either way, make sure you have supplies on hand for when the urge strikes.
Numb Your Emotions
There are so many ways to numb our emotions: eating, drinking, sleeping, drugs, tv watching, binge shopping, smoking, surfing the internet, posting on social media, gaming, gambling, sex, etc. Be warned, I am NOT suggesting that numbing is a sustainable strategy. But since the vast majority of people indulge at some point and to a certain extent, I believe it’s important to be more aware of how often and how we numb.
TIP: Notice which behaviours you default to when you feel low vibration emotions. Then, set limits that seem reasonable to you and stick to them. If you find yourself slipping, again, seek help.
Did we really need scientific evidence to tell us how beneficial physical activity can be for uplifting spirits? No. We know it because we feel it. Yet, we tend to use exercise more readily to burn off the turkey stuffing than to boost the endorphins. Not only can a brisk walk on a crispy evening help to ward of the blues, it’s a perfect way to prepare the body and mind for slumber.
TIP: If you anticipate a holiday slump, make a commitment to yourself to get outside at least once every day if not twice. Go for a walk, run, bike, drop in for a yoga glass or find a hoop and dunk a few balls. Even better, ask a friend or neighbour to join you.
Emotions can be slippery. One moment, we think we can handle them, the next moment, we’re feeling so distraught, we just want to curl up and hope the world forgets about us.
TIP: Make a list of the phone numbers you might need in case sadness turns to despair or any other emotional state which is not typical for you. Most areas have emergency numbers as well as 24/7 help lines. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Chances are, you will not need them but if you do, they’ll be right there at your finger tips.
The content of this article is offered as information only. None of it is intended to be medical advice or a substitute for therapy. Please seek professional help promptly if needed.
Only a few hours away from flying home, I write this blog post with mixed emotions. I’m feeling excited at the thought of seeing our younger son. I’m feeling sad that our spirit son will not be sitting at the table spilling his witty commentary. This said, I’m also feeling immensely grateful that the work I do allows me to be aware and better equipped to navigate the choppy waters of my emotional seas and that, perhaps, in some small way, what I teach myself is of benefit to others.
Wishing you love, peace, joy, and vitality!