In my work as a psychotherapist, I see a lot of people working through feelings of grief and trauma. Any other time of year, it is pretty tough to try to wrap your head around rollercoaster-like emotions and upsetting thoughts. It’s about re-establishing a new you, in a new reality, while making an effort to keep moving forward. And at the same time, mentally preparing yourself for those “first occasions after”, the first birthday of the loved one who passed away or the first time you will go back to work after the incident. It feels like you’ve taking three steps forward and two steps back.
Now Christmas time is a whole different ball game. Happy carols blasting out of every speaker system in all stores, radio VJ’s broadcasting all the fun can’t-miss-out-on festivities in Toronto, and most “fun” of all – wishing complete strangers a “Merry Christmas”. A lot of people I work with do not find Christmas the most wonderful time of year. In fact, they dread this time of year more so than any other first-occasion-after.
Norman Vincent Peale could not have said it any better
“Change your thoughts and you change your world”
Easier said than done, but the principle behind thinking positively has been widely tested and confirmed. I’m not saying that it’s simply a matter of repeating to yourself “It’s the most wonderful time of year” and that you’ll start believing it. What I am saying is that changing the wording of your thoughts will have a big impact on how you feel. What makes this season different from other seasons? Personally, I love it when it’s cold outside and I can see my own breath, wearing sunglasses because the sun is so bright, whilst being bundled up in a comfy sweater and rocking big winter boots. This is not just a Christmas feeling, I could have the same feeling when it started snowing in November or when there is still snow on the ground in March. That is my wonderful time of the year.
Another great quote on the same topic is from Roy Bennett
“Start each day with a positive thought and a grateful heart.”
When we are faced with loss or a trauma, we tend to avoid thinking as this usually leads to painful thoughts. People will try to isolate themselves so not to be engaged in conversation, they distract themselves in an attempt to block hurtful thoughts. Everyone needs a little reminding of the positive at times. One thing you can help yourself with is starting a gratitude journal. Name three things that happened today that you are grateful for, happy about or made you laugh. They cannot be the same things as yesterday.
A last quote comes Abraham Lincoln
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
This is not the same as avoiding feeling upset or ignoring the past. It’s about changing your outlook on things, trying to see the glass half full instead of half empty (gotta love those cliché’s). What you are going through at the moment is not ever lasting. It is temporary and has an expiration date, when that will be depends largely on your frame of mind, self care practices and resilience. Having a goal to work towards to, having a daily routine, and working out are all great ways to keep your mind focused and resilient.