The Holidays! Getting through the Holiday Season when you aren’t Feeling Too Cheerful

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The holiday season comes around every year. For some of us, the holidays are timely reminders of what’s wrong in our lives instead of what we should be celebrating. There are many reasons why the holidays can be depressing. This year, with election fervor and a shifting political landscape, there are even more reasons to find peace with self-management strategies that will teach you to reduce self-harming thoughts & feelings to promote the very joy we are hoping to experience on the holidays.

On behalf of Mental Health Affairs, I wish you the very brightest and most cheerful holiday season. I hope the tools discussed in this article bring you closer to the mindset you need to feel safe and joyous at this time of year. As always, please discuss the strategies discussed in this article with your therapist and psychiatrist before implementing them in your living environment.

On the most simple of levels, the holidays are triggering. They are reminders of the past. For some folks, the holidays are reminders of past traumas, of events that unfolded in your life that went awry, sometimes very awry. These reminders of past negative experiences during the holidays are brazenly overlooked and misunderstood by peers, family members, friends, and colleagues who aren’t familiar with your personal history. Well, fortunately, nobody is an expert in your life but you. Let’s begin there. Did you lose a parent? A child? A job? An apartment? Suffer an injury?

These are personal traumas that we carry every day. The holidays remind us of a watch or a calendar of particular events. However, your choice to feel and think and decide to act on impulses associated with past events is advisable only if you want to feel and think like you did yesterday. So, let these calendar reminders, these holidays, remind you to live in today. It begins with creating new memories, establishing new goals for the following year, and re-imagining tomorrow, today.

On a deeper level, there are certain extra-personal issues or events (e.g. political) that will make us feel a particular way about the state of things. To be very blunt, some readers of this blog are VERY upset about the election results. It was a long, long election season for most of us, and unfortunately for many folks out there, people are feeling particularly divided among their peers, family, and colleagues on either side of the aisle. Well, let’s really get underneath all of this for a minute. I’ve been reading a lot of posts on social media where people are truly voicing their anger, and, conversely, their happiness about the election results.

As a therapist and peer, I never speak or discuss politics, it’s simply not advisable, but I give advice on how to live in a world with politics. Love, listen, and radical acceptance. If you buy into these three things and believe in them unconditionally, why are you letting the election interfere with your joy, your connections with friends and family members? Many of you folks are already doing what you need to do to make positive lasting changes in the world with your careers and life choices.

Ultimately, harm reduction models suggest acting on impulses if need be to the very point in which more bad is done than good. This holiday season, choose to reduce the harm this extra personal event has in your life, and choose joy.

Edited: Autumn Tompkins

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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