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Thrive Therapy & Counseling provides high quality therapy to Highly Sensitive People and to kids, teens or adults struggling with anxiety, depression or self-esteem.

When the holidays ain't 'all that'


This blog is written by a therapist in midtown Sacramento and focuses on the concerns and struggles of highly sensitive people (HSPs) and of kids, teens and adults struggling with depression, anxiety or just trying to figure out what they want for themselves.  There's help and hope through counseling and therapy!

When the holidays ain't 'all that'

Ivy Griffin

Just mentioning the “holiday season” evokes strong reactions in a lot of folks . . . although those reactions can vary A LOT. Some people instantly appear overcome with wonder and awe and excitement and speak only of joy and good times. (The rest of us stare at them in disgust. Just kidding! It’s just that the holidays are more complicated for many people.) For some, referencing the Christmas/Hanukah/ Kwanza/New Year’s holidays brings a heavy sigh, “Ughhhh, so much to do” or “sooo much dealing with family.” For others still, this time of year brings up deep sadness and loss—perhaps loved ones are gone or relationships have ended or they’ve never gotten to experience any version of the movie/greeting card “magic” of the season and they grieve what they haven’t had.

This blog is for all of you who don’t fall into that 1st category. (And, if you do, good for you—seriously, I mean that.  I’m glad you love this time of year with your dear HSP soul, but I’m going to make space here for folks who don’t for one reason or another.)

Right now, the days are short, the nights are long. I have to believe this is a huge part of the reason why what we refer to as “the holiday season” is in the middle of winter—dear Lord, people needed something to look forward to! The downside, of course, is that when you find the holidays upsetting, painful or stressful, you may also be stuck indoors, deprived of Vitamin D, trying to stay warm or dry and anxiously awaiting the Winter Solstice when at least you can say the days are getting longer again! (Anyone . . . anyone? Seriously, just the idea of the daylight hours moving in the right direction brings some bounce back to my step.)

I’m not here to tell you that there’s any secret to finding the “magic” of the season. I’m also not going to tell you to follow my 5 steps, and you’ll be better than ever. I am, however, going to list a few things that I think can ease and soften pain and hurt this time of year. We’ll call it the “Anti-List” as these are in no particular order. I recommend them on an “as needed” and “what works best for you” basis:

  • Practice letting go. We have so many damn expectations built into this season. Capitalism likes to shove the “wonder” down our throats in every conceivable way. Whether it’s that your significant other should be buying you a new car or the most beautiful diamond, that you should spend your days surrounded by loving family decorating and cooking and eating and drinking while the snow falls or that you should get your shopping started before Halloween to score only the best deals, there is so much PRESSURE. All that pressure can lead to feeling like you don’t measure up or like you’re not doing it right. Arghhh, that’s such bullshit! We live in an incredibly diverse world with so much range of experience. Any particular day or celebration can look and be so different for each person. That’s ok! In fact, I think that’s pretty awesome. As human beings, we’re complex. As Highly Sensitive People, we notice and connect with and value that complexity. Instead of trying to fall into some cookie cutter mold, let’s try to let go of what we’re supposed to be and do, and just let the days unfold as they will. What would things look like if we freed ourselves of the “musts” and “shoulds?”
  • Try to accept and allow, even in small doses. I know, you’ve heard me say this one before. And, I know, this isn’t easy. Believe me, I get that it is SO not easy and that almost no one enjoys doing this. However, maybe because of how difficult it can be, I think this might be one of the best gifts we give ourselves and one of our best tools for self-care. So, if you’re feeling any difficult emotions this December, I say to you—

However you are feeling is okay. You deserve kindness and gentleness. If you need to grieve, grieve. If you need to be angry, be angry. If you’re feeling lost or alone, that’s ok too. If you’re stressed, just breathe into the overwhelm (even if you have to make time for it on your calendar.) All of this suffering is so human. It’s a part of life (even if we all hate it). You are not alone. Even if it’s so hard to believe right now, this pain will pass. 

  • Please do make time to do what makes you happy. Whether you’re feeling burned out or lonely, it’s so important to do things that you enjoy. We need to build happiness into our lives on a regular basis, even more so when life is hard. Especially when things hurt. Whether you escape from the relatives for an early bedtime to be alone and read or meditate or whether you actually take yourself ice skating (like you keep saying you want to do), you deserve to create moments of joy for yourself. 

True story—in my not-too-distant past, I was having a rough December. I jumped right on board the pity-party-woah-is-me-train and felt AWFUL. Life was not the way I wanted, and it simultaneously broke my heart and made me so angry. It was a difficult time. Partly out of desperation and partly out of pure determination, I decided to treat myself, even though I was alone. I took myself to a movie and out to dinner (went for sushi because I love it and said to hell with a “traditional” meal) and then I drove around and looked at holiday lights, just because they have always made me happy. (I think I’m kinda like a moth drawn to the light.) While this didn’t “fix” things or get me to exactly where I wanted to be, it does stand out as a memorable holiday precisely because it was different and because I enjoyed myself. And, I enjoyed myself despite some of those most irritating thoughts—“What are people going to think of you?” “How pathetic to be by myself; I should stay home and hide.” Yea, I had those bullying thoughts, but I didn’t let them stop me. And, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it can be fun to focus on doing exactly what you want when you want, even if it’s different than what others do.

I hope that you too find comfort and moments of joy this month. Warm wishes and kind thoughts to you all!

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