Self-Help: What to do with negativity over the holidays?
Let’s face it, we all have our moments. Getting crazed over the holidays may be small – a little meltdown in a hurried moment — or big, an entire weekend of feeling overwhelmed. It happens to all of us, and there’s no need to let it ruin things. Here’s some tips for what to do if you should get crazed:
1. Feeling negative is never fun, and often, we don’t like ourselves very much for feeling this way. In fact, we can fall prey to wishing we could be someone else. Someone more upbeat. Or nicer. Or more positive. Don’t fall into this trap. Remember: you cannot spend your entire life in a positive frame of mind. If G-d had intended that, he would not have invented the whole other range of feelings we need to contend with. So give yourself a break.
2. The same goes for your spouse, your children, your relatives or your friends. Sadly, they can all descend into big or little bouts of misery, just like you. Cut them some slack, and let them take their turn without correcting, admonishing, or getting annoyed with them. Just shut your mouth and listen until it passes. And trust me, it will pass a lot faster if you can say nothing, or even better, be understanding or comforting.
3. Don’t try to turn on the positivity in moments of heightened crazed-ness. There are many roads to enlightenment — positivity is not the only one. So don’t try to count your blessings, exercise gratitude, look on the bright side, create love, and generate positive feelings in the moment of feeling crazed. It will only bring on feelings of guilt, shame and self-loathing, adding insult to injory. Negative states need to be respected, not rejected, so turn off the intolerance and ride the storm.
If you know you or someone in your family is going to be REALLY crazed, and you already know that your holidays are going to be super-challenging, here are some ADVANCED techniques:
1. Find someone who can stay present with your negativity (listen to it, understand, commiserate, empathize) and try to have a direct line to them throughout the holidays, whether via text, e-mail or phone.
2. It is hardest to stay connected, present, comforting and emotionally available with a spouse. So be prepared for your own impatience. Pray for some patience beforehand, because if youre spouse gets crazed, you’re going to need it.
3. In fact, prepare your whole family for getting crazed if you know there will be challenges. Talk to them about taking turns. The rules: each member is allowed their own turn, where nobody will be admonished, asked to feel differently, or told to be quiet. Allowing the feelings to be present generates connectedness and love, even if not immediately.
4. Adopt a negative mantra for super-charged crazed moments, to repeat in your head. Like, “s$%t, s*&t, s(*t, s#-t” or “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this,” or “what a bit#h, what a bi@ch, what a bit#h.” The mantra provides your mind with a way of venting so you don’t have to lose it or get depressed. This will not work if the mantra is followed by “I’m so horrible, I’m so negative, I’m so ungrateful,” and other such thoughts that can set in reflexively when we are negative. You have to execute this mantra as a way to get more comfortable with your negativity, not less. This takes practice.
5. Meditate on a clock. Watching the clock helps you understand that soon, this will be over. Whether you are being crazed by a relative that is difficult, by too much work, or by cranky children, clock-watching can help you to remember: too shall pass.
6. Fall into duty. We pay too much attention to how we feel when we are negative, and not enough attention to how we act. We give ourselves so little credit, and so much of a hard time. Behaving dutifully, without loving feelings, without gratitude, and in the presence of anger, gives you good feelings about yourself, because it is a virtuous thing to do. And feeling virtuous helps combat the self-dislike that accompanies feeling crazed with negativity. So make a mental list of activities that make you feel virtuous so that you can do some of those things and give yourself good feelings about yourself if and when you get inundated with negative feelings.
Discover your own strategies for staying centered and balanced in the face of feeling crazed. Remember that you do not always choose your feelings. If trying to be more positive with inspirational thoughts does not work, do not get down on yourself. Instead, start working on how you can be kind to yourself despite the presence of the overwhelmingly negative thoughts and feelings that are as common to this season as are thoughts of happiness and love.