For many people reading this, this is their first holiday season post-divorce. Getting through the holidays can compound an already stressful life transition. Managing the loss and grief on top of holiday socializing, shopping, and gift giving can be beyond overwhelming.
My marriage ended several years ago right before Thanksgiving, and I clearly remember wondering how I would make it through the end of the year.
I like to think of this time as divorce on steroids because there are so many issues that get heightened at this time of year.
Externally, the social aspects of divorce are magnified with the onslaught of parties and events. Having to talk to people and explain your story takes the fun out of all of it.
Internally, the memories and emotions associated with the holidays multiply. Celebrations bring up the past, and the New Year is about reflection. This can be painful and unwanted.
If your marriage is on the rocks or recently ended, you haven’t had time to ground yourself in your own holiday experience. This may be one year that feels more about survival than celebration.
It may help to reduce self-imposed expectations that this be the “the best one ever” or that you should feel responsible for making it perfect for those around you.
As hard as this time will be, there is one crucial coping tool that you can use all through the holidays that will ease your struggle and reduce stress.
The practice of mindfulness is one of the most available and fundamental tools you can use to manage the next few months. Mindfulness is a practice that is always available to you, like your breath.
It has many of the same benefits of gratitude, and it helps in the management of intense emotions or reactions. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, elevate mood, reduce anxiety, and improve overall health. It will help you manage the many triggers that are sure to influence your experience throughout the holiday season.
Mindfulness is the practice of entering into a certain mental state by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is a powerful tool that will help you get out of your looping thoughts, negative self-talk, and distorted fantasies.
By staying in the present moment, you’re living in reality without being pulled to the future or the past.
The practice of mindfulness will also give you the best chance of actually enjoying some of your holiday. You won’t miss out by being lost in your own head or distracted by your thoughts.
Be present with your experience as you shop, decorate, eat, play with your children, and cook.
Here’s a five-step process to get you started:
- Notice when you’re lost in your thoughts or when you’re getting upset about something.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath and while bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
- Pick one thing to ground yourself, like your position in the chair, your feet on the ground, or your hands on the steering wheel.
- Say to yourself, “I’m here in this moment and that’s all there is.”
- Then say, “All is fine right now.”
Remember that this is a practice. Some days will be easy and you’ll be extremely mindful. On other days you’ll completely forget and get lost in the chaos.
Most importantly, know you cannot control anyone or anything outside of yourself, and that all you can ever really know with certainty is what’s happening in any present moment.
Give yourself the gift of mindfulness this holiday season. It’s definitely the gift that keeps on giving.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andra Brosh, PhD, BCHN, therapist in Pasadena, California
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