The holidays can bring out the best in you. Sometimes, they can bring out your worst. Take the opportunity this year to better communicate with friends and loved ones. One of the greatest gifts you can give others is the ability to care for yourself and self-soothe when your emotions are triggered by the holidays (or the people you spend time with during the holidays!).

 

Practice self-soothing in moments when you are not distressed so that you can draw from that skill when you become overwhelmed.  Preparation is key!  Try these tools this holiday season and see if it might make a difference:

 

 

  • ASK FOR A TIME OUT

When you are feeling flooding by emotions and need to take a break, ask to step away before you lose control. Knowing when you’re flooded and asking for time to sooth and regulate them is critical.  Give yourself at least 20 minutes to calm down and allow your brain a chance to form the enzymatic changes necessary.  You might even surprise the children!

 

  • TAKE 10 DEEP BREATHS

Focus on the air going in and out. Breathe in deeply for seven seconds.  Use your diaphragm fully.  Hold the breath for two or three seconds, which allows time for calming chemicals to reach your brain.  Release the air slowly for eleven seconds while relaxing the tension muscles in your body.

 

  • DO A BODY SCAN

Do a body scan to help you notice where you feel tense in your body and breathe into those places to relax them. Being aware of the tension you keep in your brow, jaw, neck, and shoulders might be a good place to start.

 

  • IMAGINE YOUR FAVORITE PLACE

Imagine your favorite place—a place that makes you feel at ease.

What are the sounds, smells, and sensations that accompany that place?  Place yourself there in your mind and allow your senses to calm you.

 

 

 

  • KNOW YOUR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS

Typically, “the shoulds” or “catastrophizing” tend to lead the way in faulty thinking.  Be aware of the common ways your thoughts are distorted.  Once you recognize the faulty thought(s), restructure them into something more positive and hopeful.

For a full list of cognitive distortions, check this website:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201301/50-common-cognitive-distortions

For a more concise list:  https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/

 

  • LISTEN TO MUSIC, WATCH TV, OR GO FOR A WALKWill Ferrel from Elf Picture

Avoid ruminating on the thing/thought that led to feeling overwhelmed in the first place.  Engage your mind in something that will ignite healthy chemicals in your brain, such as music, smiling, laughing, exercise, and the like.

 

When you can talk to others with less tension and stress weighing you down, you can have better and more productive conversation which leads to a better holiday season. Best of luck to you!  Happy Holidays!!

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