When it comes to this time of the year, we are bombarded with emotionally charged messages by song lyrics, colors, smells, and traditional rituals. Ask almost anyone what does celebrating the holidays mean to them and you’d hear a slew of things they do (gift buying, planning parties), things they prepare to eat or serve others (sweets, special recipes), and how they plan to spend time with families, friends, coworkers.
I personally happen to like several aspects of the holiday season and I am guessing many of you do too. But I know many of us feel a sense of sadness, tenderness, vulnerability, and even anxiety during these very times. Ever wondered why that is the case?
Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living” as he was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. So I encourage you to ask yourself, how come I don’t think I must spend time and money in offering gifts at other times of the year. Or why is it that I particularly crave things with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger during December, and not much in July? And, how come I don’t have this expectation that I should be with my family on any particular evening of the year except on December 24th? And though you feel tender and sad when you think of the loss of a loved one, how come you particularly allow yourself to grief your worst during this month?
I am going to take a risk of sounding insensitive and say the answer to the above questions is: because you let yourself.
As I’ve treated persons feeling depressed, anxious and lonely during these months over the years, I’ve learned some typical negative beliefs that fuel the negative emotions experienced by most. Here is a list of commonly held beliefs:
- Black and White Thinking: Christmas is a special time of the year. If you don’t have a special someone you are bound to have a bad time.
- Falling For Tempting Thoughts: I get to have all these amazing treats because they only come along once a year, I deserve it because I’ve worked so hard.
- Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, Discounting the Positive: If I don’t make it to all the holiday events at work and at home, people might think I don’t respect them; or that I am not a team player; or I might not get that promotion or close that sale.
- Self Martyrdom: I miss my loved ones at this time of the year and grieve their absence because I really care about them. So being depressed right now means I am loyal to them.
So, the take-home message here is that I’d like to suggest that you examine your own beliefs and see if you still agree with them. Perhaps once you recognize the thinking errors, you’d see the more liberating thought pattern come through, and you’d be able to find relief from those negative thoughts.
I am Dr. G. Katie Dashtban, a licensed clinical health psychologist. I have offices in Santa Cruz and Fremont, CA. I can be reached at 831-621-1150 and by visiting www.feelinggoodtherapy.com