Thanksgiving is a great day to be with family and friends and to eat, eat, eat! But when you are going through a tough time, or when you aren’t seeing eye-to-eye with those family and friends, Thanksgiving can be difficult. If you have experienced a loss, this time can be torture. Listening to everyone say what they are grateful for, or ask what you are grateful for, and then go on about how excited they are about the upcoming holidays, can be sickening. All the while, in your mind you are screaming, “Don’t you know I’m dying here?” Who said we all had to be happy and grateful this time of year? Here are a few things to think about that should help if you are going through a tough time this holiday season.
1. Everything can – and will – change. The situation you are in at this moment will not last. It seems like it will go on forever, that it will never get better. But just as it got worse when it was good, it will get good after being bad. I know this is hard to hold on to, but if you can think about when it was better, if you can try to remember those times, it will help. When we start to think that it has been so bad for so long and will never change, we get stuck. Thinking about before it got bad helps us remember it can, and will, be good again.
2. You’ve overcome challenges before. This is a good thing to remember because we are generally stronger than we think we are. Most likely you have gone through a number of difficult times, had hard challenges, throughout your life. When things are a challenge for me, I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was a bad time let me just say! But here I am on the other side of that challenge and it’s helpful for me to remember I got through it when I face another one.
3. It’s a learning experience. Yes I know. You probably want to punch me in the nose for this one. But it is true. We learn so much by the challenges, by the difficult times. We often learn who we are, or how strong we really are. We learn what we can and cannot do. We learn what we can do but really don’t want to! Whenever a client has gone through something difficult, I always have them reflect on what they learned in that situation. What is the take-away? There is always a take-away. We just have to stop and think about it.
4. Not getting what you want can be a blessing. Are you in this difficult time because what you wanted just didn’t materialize? Why is that? Take some time and reflect. Is there more to learn, do, accomplish? Are you not in the right space in your life to handle what you want and didn’t get? Are you going to find another path that will take you to something better? It’s said that when one door closes another opens up and this is very true. By not getting what we want we need to focus on what else is there for us and follow that direction. Sometimes this one makes us not feel grateful, not be happy. This is because we are focusing on what we lost. If you stop and focus on what you could get instead, you will find your new path. I can relate to this one oh so well. When I was trying to have children, it just wasn’t working. 5 years of trying with interventions and nothing. So I had to stop this path and find another. Which in my case was adoption. If I had had biological children, I never would have found my real children and that is the biggest blessing of all.
5. Allow yourself to have some fun. Even though you are sad, mad, disappointed, or a variety of other not-so-good things, doesn’t mean you can’t stop and have fun. Laughing and having fun is a great distraction to what is troubling you. Let yourself get involved in the laughter of the season. Sing those Christmas carols. Play games with the family. Watch the corny holiday shows. Do things that are fun. You may find you feel better, more positive, and enjoy having fun again.
6. Being kind to yourself is the best medicine. I often tell clients to allow yourself to be lazy, or be sad, or even mad, but give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself you will be lazy and not do your chores until noon. Then at noon, it’s time to get back in gear. Or let yourself read a book for 2 hours. Then, when the time is up, getting back to work. Basically, allow yourself to be where you are with your feelings, but don’t get consumed there. It’s ok, and even necessary, to allow yourself to be indulged. Who better to do it than you? Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.
7. Other people’s negativity isn’t worth worrying about. Being negative is contagious, just as being happy. But if others are negative don’t let it drag you down even further. If you are going through a difficult time you need those who are positive, happy. Find them. Are they at the family gathering? Stick to them like glue. They will be the ones who help you up, not those who are negative.
8. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. I know, you can’t see it. But take a moment and think about what you do have. It may not be a lot. It may not be grand. It may not even be what you want. But it is yours. Cherish it. Be thankful for it. You found what you need.
It’s important at this time of year to remember that you are, in fact, strong enough to rise above this difficult time. You are strong enough because you are reading this. You are strong enough to seek help when you need it. You are strong enough to move yourself forward. Your struggles are your path forward. Not backward. Forward. Follow it.