‘Tis the season to be jolly, grateful, and “happy” right? Well, I can say my holidays are usually a mix of ups and downs and navigating the challenges can be especially difficult with all the expectations of what it “should” be and what I – or others – “should” feel. DBT skills and dialectical thinking have helped me through so many difficulties in the past 20 years, providing me with an important lens to use when past, painful experiences are triggered in the present day. In fact, as soon as the Halloween merchandise shows up on the shelves each year, I feel a sudden tightening in my chest and a flood of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Through the use of mindfulness and acceptance skills, I have come to see these habitual emotional reactions to holiday décor as an automatic response to the various representations of both the positive and negative experiences associated with the holiday season. Perhaps you, too, have mixed emotional reactions, or you may be someone who has strong negative associations that cloud any positive memories or possibilities, or perhaps you just don’t believe in celebrating any holidays, so living in a culture that is obsessed with them is the challenge. Finally, you may be a person who enjoys the holidays and has a difficult time understanding or tolerating people who do not. In light of this emotional rollercoaster of a season, I thought it might be helpful to do a mini blog series on, “How to use DBT skills throughout the Holidays to avoid getting wiped out physically and emotionally.”
DBT encourages the use of both acceptance and change skills and sometimes a little of both at the same time. In this series, we will visit some of the most useful skills and share some tips from various therapists.
Being skillful usually starts with mindfulness: being aware in the present moment, without judgment to determine wise action. Mindfulness is a skill, a practice, and even a state of mind that can be nurtured through a dedicated daily practice. If you already have a practice, this time of year can be challenging with so many additional commitments. Do your best to keep it at the top of your list and if you have to cut corners, cut it short, not out. One of my favorite practices is a simple mindfulness of the breath and it can also be a helpful way to ground attention in the present moment and reset your nervous system. Here is a 3-minute meditation (Link) that you can download and replay daily, serving as a morning practice, an evening release, or an on-the-go reset:
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