Well, the holiday season is in full swing and while all the commercials on TV show perfect holiday parties and the influencer’s feeds show well-curated family portraits, many of us are struggling this holiday season to maintain some semblance of sanity.
My clients know that my first line of defense in any stressful or taxing situation is to practice self-compassion. When we feel overwhelmed, tired, anxious, and fed-up, it’s usually for a reason! We rarely feel things because we want to or are being dramatic. And over and over again I feel like I have been shouting from the rooftops: “The holiday season triggers all of our traumas! Be gentle with yourselves!"
But why is the holiday season so hard? I think understanding they “why” helps us access self-compassion a little bit easier. Here are just a few of the long list of reasons why the holidays can be so challenging.
With all the talk of “togetherness” around this time of year, feelings can get so complicated for those of us who have had experiences of separation and apartness. Whether it is a loss due to death or divorce, losing a job or a house, loss of a dream, or any other experience that causes us to feel grief, it can be disheartening to feel like the only one who isn’t happily connected during the holidays. My mother’s favorite holiday was Christmas, and even 10 years after her death, I still feel the sadness and weight of not having her around. Whether any of these losses are fresh or familiar, it’s ok if you are feeling the extra dose of sadness, anxiety, or anger during the holidays.
SO MUCH PRESSURE! The holidays are probably one of the most stressful times of year simply because of all the pressure and expectations put on everyone. Us sex therapists help people understand that when pressure is present, pleasure does not coexist well. And this can be true for most, if not all, areas of life! I’m imagining at one point or another many of you have heard some version of these following statements/questions. If not verbally from someone else, then in your own head!
We are now finding out through years of research that trauma is not just a point on someone’s life timeline that has a huge impact and then nothing is ever the same. Some trauma is generational, some is relational, and some evolves over time. And our bodies react very similarly to all of the forms of trauma. Most of us have experienced some trauma in our lives.
And if that is true, then most of the people you hang out with during the holiday have experienced trauma. Whether it’s family, friends, or co-workers, you can bet that others are having past traumatic experiences stirred up for them. So then we are expected to get together for multiple social events with all of these people and have our own trauma stirred up too. If you ever wondered why you can’t get through a holiday without the whole family breaking into a fight or everyone being passive-aggressive with each other all day, it’s most likely in part due to the fact that everyone is having their trauma triggered. Ultimately, without the awareness of how we are impacted by these events, it is hard to manage the big feelings around them. And the same is true for most of the other people in the room.
So, when you feel over-tired, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and over-worked this holiday season, you are not being dramatic. You have full permission to be gentle with yourself and tap into loads of self-compassion to get you through to a less stressful moment in your life.