I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a phase of life when I love the holiday season. These days I’m in a, “Pass me a pumpkin spice latte while I blast Mariah’s All I want for Christmas” state of mind.
But, this wasn’t always the case. (I share more about my own experience with difficult holidays in a recent podcast Jason and I did.)
The holidays can feel fraught with expectation, pressure, even sadness. During these times it’s helpful to draw upon the tools you have been developing in your yoga and mindfulness practices.
Here are some mindfulness practices for the holidays that can help. Jason and I also did a podcast about this where we share even more ideas. You can listen to it here.
How to Navigate Big Feelings
REMEMBER THAT ALL FEELINGS ARE UNIVERSAL
Loneliness is a common feeling to crop up during the holidays. Loneliness can feel like a deep ache. When we have uncomfortable feelings, it’s easy to habitually make them worse by pathologizing them.
So we layer on meaning that’s totally unnecessary or even false. We might tell ourselves, ’Everyone else belongs except for me.’ Or ‘Everyone has a partner who loves them and I don’t.’
When we tell ourselves these things, we separate ourselves from the universal experience of being human. And we make ourselves feel so much worse.
If you find yourself going down a mental rabbit hole where you are feeling worse and worse, remind yourself that everyone feels lonely sometimes. You’re not the only person who has felt lonely and there are people all around the world feeling lonely right now, too. In other words, you’re not weird. And, in a sense, you’re not alone. You’re just human.
Having this awareness won’t necessarily take the depth of the feeling away but can reduce that feeling of separation that we often feel.
VISUALIZE YOUR FEELINGS AS AN OBJECT OR A FRIEND
Another idea for navigating big feelings is to visualize them outside of one’s self. Jason talks in the podcast about he imagines that the feeling is an object.
I like to imagine a difficult feeling as a friend who needs support. Our difficult feelings are really just parts of us crying out to be seen and heard. So, we can make the choice to turn toward the the feeling and comfort it. Allow it to be there and try to hold space for it until it changes or passes.
REMEMBER THE LAW OF IMPERMANENCE
When we’re in the midst of difficulty, it can feel like time slows down. We can’t visualize a time when things will different or life will make sense. I’m here to tell you that everything is fleeting and this feeling will pass, too.
Matt Haig is a writer who experienced suicidal depression more than 20 years ago. He talks a lot about one’s “future self.” You don’t know your future self yet, but it’s important to hold on so that you can! He is so grateful that he made it to become his future self. He has an incredible story — he is an award-winning author and one of his books is being made into a holiday film on Netflix!
I don’t have quite the razzle dazzle success that Haig does, but I’m still grateful to have weathered the panic and depression I experienced more than 20 years ago. When I was having panic attacks and felt afraid to leave my house , I could have never, ever imagined the happiness, sense of purpose, and self-acceptance I now feel.
All of these ideas for navigating feelings with mindfulness might be a new way of relating to yourself. It will take mental discipline and active practice. But it works. And it gets easier.
However, if you need more help, or if you are having thoughts of suicide, please seek help. We must support each other and normalize getting the help we need to heal and function. As my fantastic psychiatrist used to remind me, “There is no virtue to any type of under-treatment!”
Here is a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and here is their phone number: 1-800-273-8255 This document provided by Google has telephone numbers for several countries outside of the United States, too. We love you.
Creating Connection With Family and Friends
Since the dawn of time humans have created rituals. These rituals are, in large part, to create connection to each other and to nature.
And yet — connecting can be so hard! While there are family members or friends that we look forward to seeing and spending time with, there are others who we simply don’t! And, right now in this semi-post-pandemic world, opinions are more polarized than ever.
If you find yourself seated next to a particularly combative person, you can either get sucked into their vortex of combativeness or you can try a different approach altogether: You can enter the room as the most skillful, wise, and compassionate version of yourself.
Instead of entering a room feeling guarded, defensive, ready for a fight, take this as an opportunity to lean into allll the things we learn on our mats:
Sit with the discomfort
In yoga we’re taught to sit with the discomfort of our mind stuff. For this one day, practice sitting with the discomfort of someone having a different opinion than you.
Tune into what’s happening in the moment. How is your breathing? What is your internal dialogue?
Be generous with your attention. Can you respond to what the person’s intention is rather than reacting with your own agenda?
Part of being compassionate is remembering that we’re all human with burdens and fears and unresolved issues. Truly, there is a messiness to every person you meet. The more you can accept this and try to see their humanity, the easier it will be to connect and appreciate them.
Have a sense of humor
Every time I’ve been in the presence of a truly great teacher their sense of humor about being human shines through. We can only take ourselves so seriously before we all might implode. You might not be able to show your humor in the moment at a holiday gathering, but in that case you can do what the great heed the words of the great writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron and remember that “It’s all material.”
If all of these techniques fail you, you can also go to bathroom and do some simple breathing. That works, too.