How to honor our struggles and show self-compassion this holiday season

November 22, 2021
Aspire Blog - Holiday Season Wellness Advice

Much like last year, the upcoming holidays may look different. While some of us want to return to “normal,” others may not be quite as ready. The pandemic has brought on extraordinary emotions of angst, fear, grief, and loss. On holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s, your thoughts may be consumed with how your life has been, how it could have been, and/or who (or what) is missing.

We’re here to tell you that “It’s okay not to be okay.”

An article published in the Harvard Business Review describes a term called “toxic positivity” described by Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a licensed clinical psychologist and trained cognitive behavior therapist as, “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or — my pet peeve term — ‘positive vibes.'”

Keeping this in mind, how can you help and support yourself and others? Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

  • Do allow yourself not to feel okay. Remember that emotions, whether anger and sadness or happiness and joy, come and go. As Dr. Zuckerman says, “we need to let ourselves experience painful feelings if we ever want to truly let them pass through us”
  • Don’t pretend emotional pain doesn’t exist. Avoiding emotional discomfort can lead to great feelings of isolating, anxiety, and depression. Try and confront and process emotions in an effective and timely manner
  • Do comfort others using phrases that acknowledge someone’s feelings and let them know you’re there. Rather than tell them to “get over it” say “you’re allowed to feel this way and your feelings are valid”
  • Don’t assume that because you (or someone else) are not in a positive mood that you (or they) are wrong. This invalidates someone’s emotional state and triggers secondary emotions, such as embarrassment, guilt, or shame

This holiday season, whether you are remembering a loved one who died or are just feeling overwhelmed with depression and anxiety, remember to show yourself compassion and offer yourself kind words. As Kristen Sky, therapist and life coach, writes “Take a moment to comfort yourself and honor that feeling. Know that you are not alone.”

This article also appears in the fall 2021 issue of the Aspire Advocate quarterly member newsletter. You can access the full issue here along with past issues.

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