Around this time of year I don’t think there can be enough helpful tips to keep the Happy in the Holidays. That’s why I’m sharing these classic holiday depression busters by Therese Borchard, mental health writer extraordinaire.
These 9 rules help me put the joy back into the festivities–or at least keep me from hurling a mistletoe at Santa and landing myself on the ‘naughty’ list.
1. Expect the worse. What I’m trying to say is that you have to predict bad behavior before it happens so that you can catch it in your holiday mitt and toss it back, instead of having it knock you to the floor.
2. Remember to SEE. SEE stands for Sleeping regularly, Eating well, and Exercising. Without these three basics, you can forget about an enjoyable (or even tolerable) holiday.
3. Beef up your support. If you attend Al-Anon once a week, go twice a week during the holidays. If you attend a yoga class twice a week, try to fit in another. Schedule an extra therapy session as insurance against the potential meltdowns ahead of you.
4. Avoid toxic people. This one’s difficult if the toxic people happen to be hosting Christmas dinner! But in general, just try your best to avoid pernicious humans in December.
5. Know thyself. Before you make too many plans this holiday season, list your triggers: people, places, and things that tend to trigger your fears and bring out your worst traits.
6. Travel with polyester, not linen. I’m saying that you should lower your standards and make traveling as easy as possible, both literally and figuratively.
7. Make your own traditions. Making your own tradition might mean Christmas Eve is reserved for your family and the extended family is invited over for brunch on Christmas Day. Or vice versa. Basically, it’s laying down some rules so that you have better control over the situation.
8. Get out of yourself. According to Gandhi, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.
9. Exercise your funny bone. Remember, with a funny bone in place–even if it’s in a cast–everything is tolerable.
Please share your favorite depression buster if it isn’t here! Click on the “Comments” tab above. We could all use your wisdom!
“Who will be my role model now that my role model is gone?” ~Paul Simon
From what I’ve read and heard through the media, I don’t think Nelson Mandela would expect or want to be deified. Some of the posts, interviews and articles about him since his death make him sound like he sprung from his mother’s womb fully the tolerant, brilliant politician and peacemaker he became in later life. But that can’t be so. It wasn’t so.
Like Nelson Mandela, my father lived a long life. He died in his sleep at eighty-eight years old. We are very lucky when we are able to know our parents as adults. It gives us chance to get to truly know them, not as the two dimensional icons of our childhood, but as the three dimensional human beings they really are. More like us.
Sometimes that’s a painful transition. As a child and into early adulthood, I worshiped my father. I thought he was the most intelligent, the most cultured, the coolest guy around. A combination of Jack Kennedy, Einstein and Freud. I had him on an impossible pedestal.
When it turned out he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, that he could be, and often was, wrong, I had to grieve the loss of the superman I had created.
Then I got to learn all over again who this man really was; his frustrations, failures, in addition to his accomplishments. I realized he had clay feet as well as strengths. I had to let myself be angry that he wasn’t perfect. That he had “let me down”. Then I could forgive him in my heart and accept that he did the best he could. This was a long process and took not a few hours of therapy! It turned out that even with his faults my Dad was pretty cool after all. And, more importantly, he was a real human being.
Ultimately, when we are able to embrace our role models as good yet flawed, we can incorporate them into who we are and love them and ourselves that much more deeply for it. Who is our role model now that our role model is gone? They are never gone, as long as we carry the best of who they were inside our hearts.
The NPR Program, Tell Me More, had a wonderful conversation which emphasized the evolution and complexity, of who Nelson Mandela, the father of his country, really was. Of all the tributes I’ve heard and read over the last few days, this one stood out for me. To help us remember Nelson Mandela well, here are some of his most cherished words. Is your favorite here? If not, please share it in the comments:
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“Let your greatness bloom.”
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW-R and EWN psychotherapist.
For some finding and creating emotional safety may not come easily or naturally. You may not have grown up with a loving supportive family or learned how to stay connected to your own heart. It may take some time and effort to find that safe emotional place during this holiday season.
Holiday time can stir up memories of loss, turmoil, regret and you find yourself faced with emotional chaos. It is very important to nurture your own emotional strength.
One way to help with this is to make your own memories. This year is the year to do something different. Whether it is bringing a new dish to the table or something small you can do to change things up.
Follow your heart and start some new traditions. Introduce some new activities, try a new recipe, or go someplace you’ve never been before! You can choose to embrace the change of traditions, especially if some of them weren’t all that meaningful for you in the first place.
You can hold onto the past that is important to you but also create your own new memories for your present and future. This may allow you to find a sense of strength and safety when faced with any holiday stress.
You can be responsible for your own safety and happiness by following your heart and making changes.
Below is one of my favorite poems showing that change can be empowering.
“There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk”
An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, By Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep whole in the sidewalk. I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Photo courtesy of Photo Dean via Flickr
There are lots of reasons not to be crazy about this holiday, such as putting up with kids that aren’t yours, in-laws who have an uncanny ability to push all your buttons, too much to eat, conversations that are either too intense or too boring and, my personal favorite, a lot of tongue biting just to get out in one piece. Here are a few good sites to help enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the day:
And let’s remember:
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
~Epictetus, Greek philosopher and very wise guy
HAPPY THANKGIVING & HANUKKAH!!!
Photo courtesy of Yeimaya
Music is one of the greatest tools to make you feel better, to enjoy an activity you would otherwise not or just to get a party started! Music has made people move, come together, dance and celebrate for centuries. Knowing music can bring about a smile and the desire to sing until there is no voice left, I keep it in my pocket at all times, even as I am writing this!
When feeling stressed there is music that calms us down, when sad there is music that makes us feel like someone understands and when we’re mad there is music to make you want to get up and dance in your living room like no one is watching!
My simple suggestion is to make a few playlists you can use when you need to change your mood or if you just want to perk up your day!
Here’s a music video get you started! “Sometimes I get a good feeling…”
Or, How is Our Self-Worth Like a Bug?
When I was in therapy back in graduate school I had panic attacks. My therapist said I was susceptible to anxiety because I wore my ego on the outside where it was too vulnerable. She said if you look at evolution the creatures on the low end of the food chain wear their skeletons on the outside and the inside was all mushy. Beatles are like that. The slightest thing could crush them. If the exoskeleton was cracked that is the end of them.
More advanced, evolved animals have their skeleton on the inside and their mushy bits are on the outside. If the mushy bits were hurt (as a rule) they may be battered and bruised but they could still stay upright and strong because our core, our bones, are on the inside.
We want our self-esteem to be more evolved.
When our confidence is anchored in ourselves rather than outside us, we are more stable and more resilient. For example, many of us are people pleasers. We tend to measure our self worth way too much on others’ view of us, instead of what we think about ourselves. That’s not to say other people’s opinion isn’t important. It just ought to be less important than our own belief in ourselves. It means that if they turn away from us, it may hurt, but we can still stand and stay strong. That’s real power.
How do we get our self-esteem skeleton on the inside where it belongs?
Start with some very simple, basic exercises:
- Raise your awareness of who that harsh critic is in your life. Whether in the form of another person or a critical voice in your head. Distiguish between that voice and the True You. You are kind, good and tougher than you think. You just need to raise the volume on your True Voice and tell that other nasty voice to bug off!
- Remember who You really are. List all your best attributes. Re-affirming who you truly are (instead of what others say you are) is a lot harder than it sounds but it works!
- Play a little defense. Say No. Start small. Turn down an invitation to join a committee when you already have too much on your plate. Say no thank you. Repeat as needed.
When we are born with thin skin it’s especially important to remember our inner strengths and practice them every day.
Editor’s note: In this busy world with all its pressures it is easy to lose sight of how we interact with our teens. Sadly, sitting still and focusing on what they have to say, just for the sake of being with them, can seem like one more stressor.
This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist. Here Kate provides some practical, do-able tips for any parent who wants to be closer to their teen.
Sometimes you have tried in EVERY possible way to help your adolescent and you still see them and your relationship suffering. You feel mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted and don’t know where to turn. Here are a few steps you can try to increase communication and your adolescent’s self-esteem. When nothing seems to be working…..
1. Be involved. This means being present. Turn off your phone, close your book, be close to them with no distractions and be with them. When you give half of yourself then you are telling your adolescent that they are only worthy of half of you. Let them talk. Don’t just be involved when it’s convenient for you.
2. Listen more than talk. If you don’t listen to your adolescent you will never understand them. Ask open-ended questions to help allow for more communication. “I would feel terrible if that happened to me. Is that how you felt?” Try not to react or judge. Nod as they talk to show that you hear what they are saying. Hearing is different than agreeing.
3. Be Realistic. If your adolescent comes to you with a problem be realistic. Encourage them with positive yet realistic words of encouragement. Don’t try to turn them or the situation into something other than what they are presenting to you.
4. Use a sense of humor. Nothing in life is that bad that you can’t make it better with a laugh. Being an adolescent isn’t easy. There are a lot of moments when crying or yelling seems to be the only possible solution. Help them to learn to laugh at life. There is nothing better than a good laugh to make you feel better.
5. Love. Say it. Show it. Love and accept your adolescent whoever they are. Recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to pursue their talents and enjoy success on their terms rather than yours. Don’t point out faults. They already know them. This world is challenging and they need to hear, feel, and sense unconditional LOVE from you.
6. NEVER give up! Repeat steps 1 through 5 as many times as needed. Your teen may not be convinced at first. It can take a while for your genuine focus to get through. Then they will know that you are there for them and won’t judge.
I also encourage the adolescent girl in your life to join my group this fall: Girls In Charge. It is designed to help teenaged girls feel empowered and learn to feel good about “ME”!
Photo courtesy of Steven Shorrok, highersights, via Flickr
Even in a dark sky there is light and beauty. Sometimes it’s easy to see. Sometimes we need patience, time and breath to see it.
Photo courtesy of Steve O’ Bryan of SmackSmog
Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P
Recently I lived through a major life upheaval that was not my doing. It felt like the ground under my feet shattered.
We all struggle with life transitions, some are viewed as a blessing and others as a punishment. It could be the most important aspect of whether it’s a blessing or punishment is how you endure the new transition. Do you cope? Avoid it? Or run full speed ahead?
During my recent perceived punishment from the Universe, my first instinct was to run. I fought this urge and instead decided to cope. Already being a mindful practitioner, I decided to lean hard on my mindfulness practices to get me through.
In less emotionally charged situations I could deep breathe or go for a run to cope, but this transition was different. I felt as though for all the good that I tried to do and all the hard work that I had put in, it was for those qualities that I was forced into this new situation. This transition was going to take all the coping skills I had and I knew it was going to be a long journey back to my normal, positive, content state of being.
I allowed myself to grieve for the first day that I received the news, (basically I cried all day) but I knew I could not let myself wallow for too long. The next day I got up early and started planning out how I was going to take care of myself. I fought long and hard that day to try and save what I had and not be forced into my new position. After my war ended and I knew for sure that I had lost, it was time to accept, cope and move on.
Thereafter I started every morning with a mindful run with my dogs, followed by a mindful walk and a 10-15 minute meditation. Then I ate my breakfast mindfully and practiced positive self-talk while I got ready for work. I practiced this ritual daily for two weeks straight. Then one morning after my run I was mindfully walking (Believe me, this took a lot of concentration because my mind so badly wanted to drift back to negative sad, self-defeating thoughts) and my practice paid off!
If it was not for my mindful walk I would never have seen the photo you see above. I love Mother Nature and she showed me that day that she loved me too. I did not see the heart at first glance, I just thought the trees looked beautiful against the bright blue sky. When I looked down at this picture in my hand I smiled and finally felt a sense of contentment.
It was the first time since my news that I felt like I was going to be okay. I told myself I would be, but it wasn’t until that moment that I knew I would. I was so grateful for the love I received that I had to share it with all those that I loved and now I am sharing it with you so that you know you will be okay, too!
Are you interested in how you can learn about the benefits of Mindfulness practice, what that is and how to incorporate mindfulness skills into your daily life (it’s not as hard as you think) I offer a group at Explore What’s Next on Mindfulness. Click here to see the Mindful Group poster for more information!
Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist.
The weather is changing, school buses are present, you may be staring a new job or project. Changing an ingrained habit like overspending and/or overeating, you may feel a pit in your stomach and think….am I ready for this?
Summer has come to an end and it’s time to get programmed again. As with changes in the season, there will always be changes in your life. Recently I was faced with a lot of change; new city, new job, new house and faced with anxiety because of the unknowns. Change can be exciting for some but terrifying for others.You may be scared about leaving familiar ground and taking the chance on something unfamiliar. It’s important to find the joy in starting something new.
Your mind is racing and you are questioning everything in your day and you haven’t even gotten out of bed. Realize that you are starting something new and it is normal to feel worried. Look at it as an adventure and a challenge rather than adding stress in your life.
Suggestions that may help:
1. Keep in contact with something safe. You want to have something familiar that feels good when faced with anxiety. Even if it includes having your favorite coffee, or picking up takeout once a week from your favorite restaurant, or just meeting with an old friend.
2. Challenge negative thinking. Take a few minutes to develop a different relationship with your thoughts and feelings. Instead of judging yourself think about the new possibilites you are giving yourself.
3. Breath it out. A lot of times when feeling anxious you hold your breath. Don’t hold your breath, focus on your breath. Bring your thoughts and breath together moment by moment.
4. Allow for worry time. Accept the worry rather than running from it.Talk about it but don’t let it overwhelm you. When feeling anxious during a time that is not designated “worry time” jot it down and save it for later.
5. Learn to relax. What is your outlet? Yoga, exercise, reading, cooking. Using a healthy outlet will help your body relax and not focus on your anxiety.
These are the skills I have used recently with my new adventures. Remember, if you don’t push yourself to try something new you will always be left the same place.