When the holidays aren’t the happiest time of the year

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During the holidays, there’s an overwhelming sense that we should be happy. Christmas carols are sung, decorations are put up, family and friends reunite and people swap gifts. All of these activities can be wonderful, joyous things. But for many of us, they’re not—and that’s okay.

There are lots of reasons the holidays can be difficult, notably the fact that it feels like everyone expects you to be ‘happy’ and have the Christmas spirit.  But if we’re honest, that’s not always possible.

The holidays are a time when grief comes to the forefront. If we have lost a loved one, recently or in years past, we remember them all the more clearly when they’re not celebrating with us.

If a relationship has broken down with our spouse or significant other, Christmas can be an awkward time. We feel lonely, and disappointed that our life isn’t going the way we planned. If the relationship has affected children or extended family, this becomes even more paramount, as they try to maintain a congenial relationship with both parties.

Having to see an ex over the holidays, or feeling like you must ‘share’ your family with them makes the season fraught with tension.

If a loved one is experiencing a debilitating illness like dementia, depression or chronic fatigue, the need to care for them can take over any festive spirit we have. We wrestle with anxiety, frustration and anger, desperately trying to give them a wonderful Christmas experience at the expense of our own.

Or if we are ill, we are simply unable to join in the celebrations or enjoy them in any capacity. Whether we’re stuck at home, are in hospital, or are consumed by thoughts or feelings of anxiety, we feel isolated and lonely.

Throw in elements such as distance, monetary stress, estranged relationships with the family, trauma and work pressure, and this season can fall well short of the ‘happiest time of the year’ everyone boasts about.

So where does this leave those of us who don’t feel festive, but are expected to celebrate anyway?

It’s important you know it’s okay to feel broken this season. If you feel pressure to ‘get over it’ and your loved ones don’t understand your struggle, you don’t have to justify it to them. Recognise that your experience is just as valid as the friend who sings Christmas carols at the top of their lungs. Accept that your holiday season looks different to theirs, and know it’s okay.

When we accept our own brokenness and pain, we are able to work through it.

If you are grieving, use the holidays as a tribute to a loved one you miss. Visit their grave, or do their favourite activity in remembrance of them.

If you are heartbroken, allow yourself to cry, and then feel the love of your friends and family.

If your loved one is ill, give yourself permission to rest for a moment before you continue caring for them.

If conflict arises and there is no easy resolution, table the issue and give yourself permission to tackle it in the new year.

If you are alone, volunteer, attend a local church service, or a find a community group to belong to for the day.

If you are sick, love your mind and your body for what it does bring to Christmas Day—you. And despite the confines illness puts you in, give yourself permission to smile if you feel like it.

If the holidays are difficult time for you, tell a friend why. You don’t have to explain your feelings to the whole family or friendship group, but by opening up to a person you trust—someone who is empathetic and understands—you will find strength to get through the season.

If you find yourself in a crisis during the day, call a 24/7 hotline (find a list of international hotlines here).

It is okay to feel broken this holiday season, so be gracious with yourself. You can survive this Christmas, and you will.

Are you dreading the holidays? Do you want to begin the new year afresh? Here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

10 Fun Ideas for the Holidays

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While Christmas is often called the ‘Happiest time of the year,’ for many people who are doing the holiday season alone, it actually leaves them feeling isolated and lonely. Maybe you don’t have any friends or family to celebrate with, you may not celebrate Christmas, or perhaps the stress of the season is all getting a bit too much? We thought we'd put together a list of 10 great ideas and activities that you might be interested in. Hopefully this will make the coming weeks all the more enjoyable, and something you’ll remember for years to come.

  1. Join in the SANE for their Virtual Christmas

If you love Christmas dinner but don’t have anyone to share it with, then check out SANE’s Virtual Christmas as they invite people to sit down with their own meal, and join in a festive online chat so they can share the experience with other people. SANE holds a weekly Friday Feast online, so this is something to pencil in for the New Year as well. Visit the official SANE website here for more details.

  1. Volunteer

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer over the holiday season. If you’re lonely, go and help people and not only will you be in community, but you’ll feel great as well! If you just want a shake up or feel like you’ve lost the true meaning of the season, then contact your local church, charity or community centre and ask them if you can help out with a food drive, community dinner, or other activity.

  1. Become a tourist in your hometown

Mix up your day and become a tourist in your hometown. Go and see the major attractions, visit a shopping hot spot, take a historical tour or splurge and go on a coffee crawl for the day. You’ll distract yourself and have a wonderful time becoming reacquainted with your own city.

  1. Go to a carols service or New Years Party

If you’d like to feel festive on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, going along to a community carols event is the perfect solution! Listen to your community radio station, read your local newspaper or call a near by church and see what they have on offer. There may also be New Years’ festivities open to the public that are being advertised. Check out what’s available and get along to see the fireworks.

  1. Call an old friend

This time of year is perfect for becoming reacquainted with old friends and making peace with those you’ve had a falling out with. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while and wish them a Merry Christmas. Ask them about their year, their family and what 2016 holds.

  1. Visit your local library, museum or art gallery

If you’re bored, head out and create an adventure for yourself by visiting the library, museum or art gallery. Take your time and enjoy the experience by visiting each section and appreciating what it has to offer. If there’s a café attached, bring a good book or buy one there and allow yourself to become engulfed in the environment after you’ve looked around for a few hours. 

  1. Make a Happy Box

The folks at Resilient App have come up with the great idea of putting together a Happy Box to soothe you when you are feeling down. Selecting objects like hand cream, a good book, M&M’s, bubble wrap (because who doesn’t like to pop bubbles?) or a scented candle and putting them in a box are all useful when you are feeling low or stressed. Make yourself a Happy Box over the holiday period and enjoy the long-term benefits of it in 2016.

  1. Treat yourself

Treat yourself to a nice meal and a movie. Sometime it’s more fun going and doing these activities by yourself, so go and choose a restaurant you’ve been bursting to eat at and see a movie you know you’ll love. It could be a chick flick, or it could be Star Wars- it doesn’t matter. Just treat yourself to an evening of pampering.

  1. Have coffee with a friend

We’re all busy this time of year, but you’ll find people are happy to catch up for an hour over coffee. Choose a near by café and take the chance to catch up with your friend while enjoying some yummy food. You’ll leave feeling happy and contented knowing you’ve truly invested in an important relationship.

  1. Learn something new

Pick up that cross stitch you gave up on, research a course you can join in the new year, or watch YouTube tutorials on how to become a photographer. The sky is the limit when it comes to learning something new, so take the time to read, watch, learn and practice a new skill. In the New Year you’ll blow everyone away with your brilliant new talent!

Are you lonely? Do you feel down? Here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

5 Steps to Survive the Festive Season

5 Steps to Survive the Holiday Season

I loved Christmas as a child. My excitement for the season would build up over December as school ended and the summer holidays began. Soon illustrious holiday decorations were hanging around town, the Christmas tree would go up, and presents were being bought. Christmas was always so magical as a child. Even as I grew older and knew that Santa was just another term for my parents, I still loved to imagine his coming on Christmas morning. Christmas Day was filled to the brim with good food, good times and family, and I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world.

As I’ve grown older, Christmas has slowly lost its magic. It often feels like another thing on my hectic ‘To do’ list, and on top of managing my normal work load and everyday life, I also have to navigate the ebbs and flows that come with holiday festivities. The holidays have become more about survival than enjoyment, which if we’re honest, is not what Christmas is really about. That being said, here are 5 steps I’ll be keeping in mind this coming week so I not only survive the holidays, but can learn to love them again.

  1. Have a ‘Child like’ mindset

We all have responsibilities over Christmas, and it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of simply crossing things off our list. Next time you feel yourself tensing up, stop and remember what you loved about the holidays as a child. If you’re stressed about Christmas dinner, remember why you loved it so much growing up. Perhaps financial stress is playing on your mind? Remember how simple gifts and cards surprised you as a kid. Use the excitement to find the fun of the season again.

  1. Make time to relax

I can almost here you exclaim, “Relax over the holidays? You must be kidding!” but hear me out for a second. While you’re working tirelessly to pull off a wonderful holiday season for friends, family or colleagues, you’re neglecting yourself if you don’t pause and embrace the festivities too. Make a decision to stop working, and sit down with a family member or colleague at a Christmas party. Allow yourself to join in the banter and games that take place, and don’t be afraid to take five minutes for yourself so you can be centred.

  1. Keep things simple

I know, I know, simple and holidays don’t really go together these days, but it’s the simple things that you will remember most about the season: the smell of the Christmas tree, the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you unwrap a gift someone has put thought into, and the warmth of a loved one’s hug. Don’t try to complicate the season with too many activities, over the top expectations, and stressful tasks. Just stick to the things that matter the most and focus on them.

  1. Keep family time light

The holiday season is prime time for family conflict to come up. Passive aggressive comments can arise over dinner conversation, arguments arrive over seemingly minuscule details, and issues and circumstances that occurred years ago can rear their ugly heads and make it a day we’d rather forget. While it’s important to work through your feelings, try not to let bitterness overtake your enjoyment of the day. Choose to not take things personally, and try to respond to remarks with positivity. Monitor how long you spend in difficult conversations, and allow yourself to debrief afterward in the privacy of your own home.

  1. Avoid negative coping strategies.

Yep, your mother-in-law just made another comment about how you’re running out of time to have children, so you reach for another margarita. Or maybe the stress of your holiday workload is getting to you, so you live it up one night in an attempt to forget about it. You regret it the next day. What do these circumstances have in common? You tried to survive using negative and harmful coping strategies. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy festivities, but don’t use alcohol, substances or other unhealthy habits as a crutch. You will hurt yourself and the people around you. Instead, try to implement steps 1-4. This will help you to cope with the season, and hopefully find the magic in it again.

If you are struggling to survive the holiday season, here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

How to Sustain a Supportive Couple Relationship when the Christmas Season is not a Happy One

How to Sustain a Supportive Couple Relationship when the Christmas Season is not a Happy OneIn every good Christmas movie there is a crisis of mammoth proportion. Unemployment, a marriage breakdown, a snow storm that prevents your flight to the family you rarely see, a child goes missing. Typically as the story unfolds, it appears that all hope is lost until, at the 11th hour Christmas spins it's magicand we get our happy ending.

Tragically, sometimes these scenarios happen in our own lives, throwing us into chaos; you have been retrenched, the business has closed downand you are officially unemployed, your 17 year old daughter has just fallen pregnant, a family member has a serious accident (you can add your own crisis to this list). The anger, sadness, even despair you experience is set in poignant contrast to the season's celebrations with its message of good cheer and fun. To ‘rub salt in the wound', contrary to what all our hours of watching Christmas movies have taught us, the Christmas miracle frequently does not arrive.

Typically, it is the people closest to us that experience our fraught emotion. At a time when you need each other’s support to endure the crisis, you actually create distance by behaving in ways that alienate and distance your partner. The very person you need the most, is often the person you push away.

How do you counteract this? By acknowledging each other’s attempts to connect, what John Gottman, a leading relationship expert, calls relationship bids. In his research, John Gottman discovered that the couples who sustain a happy relationship over the long-term, typically ‘turn towards each other' a majority of the time.

What does that look like?

When your partner says, ‘How was your day', a response that is a ‘turning towards you partner' might be, ‘It was a tough one. I'm glad I'm home now.' She might respond, ‘I'm glad you like being home. It's nice being together.'

When you are feeling tired, stressed and irritableand you have put effort into being ‘pleasant' to people all day at work, the inclination to speak with kindness and empathy to your partner invariably diminishes. Consequently, your partner cops your anger and irritation so that goodwill disappears and further resentment and hurt widen the distance between you.

Turning towards your partner is choosing to speak in positive, supportive ways, affectionate touching, facial expressions, playful touching and helpful gestures. Something that takes effort and discipline when you are exhausted, tense and anxious. Don't let that be an excuse for not making the effort to turn towards your partner; at a minimum turning towards your partner is a nod and ‘uh-huh' to acknowledge that you have heard them. Turning towards your partner is about being attentive to each other: validation, sharing opinions, your thoughts and feelings, asking questions. At its best, turning towards the other means that you are giving your full attention, listening, supporting and giving empathy.

Whatever your experience over this Christmas season, make it your aim to give the gift of your best self to your partner.

By choosingturn towards each other more consistently, you will feel supported and soothed as you face the challenges life brings, together.

If you need help and/or support to turn towards each other in your couple relationship, you can contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 for a free 10 minute consultation or book online now by going to the  button marked ONLINE BOOKING.

Anger Issues: How to Enjoy Christmas Without Letting Your Anger Hijack It

Christmas

Purported in song to be ‘The most wonderful time of the year'.

A season marked by love, joy, peace and goodwill to all.

People anticipate Christmas Day as a day of celebrating with family, gift-giving and a festive meal.

Our anticipation is heightened as the latest Christmas Cinema Movie  is advertised (this year's offering is Rise of the Guardian) and re-runs of old Christmas movies dominate the T.V. menu.

Carols by Candlelight features well-known songs whose lyrics talk about the joy, peace and love that Christmas promises to bring.

Sadly, it may be your experience that Christmas has not always delivered everything that  the Christmas songs and stories promise. Christmas  can be the most difficult time of the year when your memories of past Christmas' has been impacted by a family crisis, family rifts, disappointment, violence or grief. As Christmas Day is anticipated, you are bombarded with Christmas reminders, triggering feelings of emotional vulnerability, irritability and anger. You feel like a ticking time-boom, just waiting for the trigger that will release all the pent up anger within you.

For many people, anger is nurtured by their high expectations and the inevitable disappointment when reality does not live up to the expectation. Can you identify with that experience?

When you are able to identify your unrealistic expectations of Christmas you will be able to enjoy the season without letting your anger hijack it.

 

1. Let go of your expectations of Christmas

I have to confess that I love watching Christmas movies. The typical formula for a good Christmas movie goes something like this: as Christmas approaches everything goes wrong; relationships break-up, snow storms prevent travel, accidents and family drama occur. In spite of all the challenges that are thrown up to prevent a happy family Christmas get-together, barriers are finally overcome and the movie concludes with the scene of a happy family enjoying Christmas together.

The message of these movies is that no matter what difficulties you face, Christmas is a magical time when challenges are overcome, relationships are healed and families come together in unity and love to celebrate the season.

What expectations do you hold for Christmas? You set yourself up for disappointment and an outburst of anger when the expectations you hold for Christmas are not realised. Is it realistic to expect that the day will go smoothly without drama? Is it realistic to expect that family members will ‘get along' with each other? If problems exist within your family, then those problems will inevitably emerge when the family gets together because emotions are heightened and easily triggered.

Approach Christmas Day with the knowledge that whilst it is a day that celebrates love, joy, peace and the bond of family, your family relationships and interactions may not live up to the ‘ideal family Christmas'. Determine to enjoy the day for what it is, and let go of what you expect Christmas ‘should' look like. Focus on appreciating the day in its ‘ordinariness' – look out for the simple things that make the day pleasurable.

By approaching the Christmas season with this attitude you will feel less irritable and more appreciative of the small pleasures that Christmas brings.

2. Let go of your personal expectations

Personal expectations are notorious for beginning with the words ‘I should..'

I should feel happy

I should have a gift for everyone

I should be excited about being with family

I should create the perfect Christmas dinner

When you hear yourself beginning a thought with ‘I should', ask yourself why? The expectations you hold for yourself create stress and put you under unnecessary pressure. Let go of personal expectations that increase anxiety and stress and you will be able to approach the day  feeling much calmer and more in control of your anger.

3. Let go of the expectations you have for other people

What do you expect from the people you will spend Christmas with? What do you believe they ‘should'  do or  ‘should not' do. (Notice the ‘shoulds' again?)

They should know what I want for Christmas

They should ‘get on' with each other without those ‘snide remarks' and inappropriate behaviours

They should do Christmas according to our family traditions

They should be delighted when they open my gift

The children should play nicely together without any dramas!

When  you hold expectations for the way other people behave, you will be disappointed every time and your anger will hijack the pleasure you could otherwise experience.

 

4. Take personal responsibility for your enjoyment of the day

By determining to ‘let go' of your unrealistic expectations of Christmas Day and having a few strategies to help you remain calm and settled, you take responsibility for your own enjoyment of the day. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Drink it slowly and have a glass of water between each drink of alcohol.
  • withdraw from situations that you anticipate will be a trigger for anger. Go for a walk, or choose to sit quietly in another room.
  • have an object on your person that has a calming effect when you hold it (a favourite object that instill good feelings or a stress ball)

Planning ahead can ensure that you have an enjoyable Christmas without the threat of your anger hijacking it.

If you want to grow, experience wellness and reach toward your full potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you.