What’s your holiday story? For some, the holidays are about connecting with friends and family, eating hearty meals and treats, singing songs, or getting in touch with one’s spirituality. For others, the holidays are laced with groans, trepidation, loneliness, frustration, angst, or bouts of depression and anxiety. Or perhaps, these scenarios coexist.
With increased obligations, people are in demand this time of year. With so much more on our plate, literally and figuratively, it’s easy to feel overloaded and disconnected from what the holiday season is supposed to mean. Combine that with mandatory or obligatory time spent with relatives or coworkers that may not normally spend time together, and the holidays can be a recipe for increased stress. Suddenly our holiday stories are about shopping, traveling, running from place to place, and making small talk. They are frenzied, lacking depth and feeling. I call this a thin story. When thin stories take over our lives, we may retreat inside ourselves, which feels worse.
You can rewrite or even prewrite your holiday story as an antidote to a thin holiday story that threatens to keep you on edge. The story you create needs depth so that it has better staying power than the old story. The way to create depth is to get in touch with what you value. Below is step by step example of prewriting or rewriting a holiday story.
Write down the following:
- Describe the thin story. Example: Rushing around, complaining about not having time, dreading family get-togethers, spending too much money, overeating.
- Identify what living out the thin story does to you. Example: It makes me not want to do anything. I dislike the holiday season, and if I go to my family with a bad attitude I know things will turn out poorly.
- Answer the question, “Why does this bother me?” Example: It bothers me because I want to connect with people and the spirit of the holidays. I remember how wonderful the holidays felt as a child and I want my children to feel that, too. I also tend to eat too much, and then I feel bad about myself and my body.
- Look at your answers to step three. Then write down three words or phrases that describe what matters to you. Example: Connection with others, being a good mother, taking care of myself and my body.
In four steps you have created the beginning of a holiday story that, at its core, contains what matters most to you. Hold onto it in all you do this season.
If the thin story starts to take over, give yourself three seconds to remember the three phrases you came up with in step four. Wear these phrases like armor. They are there to protect you from anything that wants to take you farther from who you are and what matters most. Even if you can’t do everything you might want this holiday season, remember that you can still be you and stay true to what you hold dear.
© Copyright 2009 by Peggy Derivan, MS, LMHC, therapist in Rochester, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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