Hope for the holidays
Handling the myriad of seasonal feelings

By Macaile Hutt

The holiday season is upon us, as many radio stations, store aisles, and advertisements will endlessly remind you as you do your best to navigate your week. While this time of year can be a really positive and uplifting time for some, it can also be a time filled with heaviness, grief, loss, and sadness for others.
If entering this season brings you equal parts happiness and dread, you are not alone.
I hope these ideas and reminders serve as a beacon of light and hope in a time that often feels hopeless to enter into. We are all in this together.

  1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judgment. As feelings come and go throughout this holiday season, remind yourself that no feeling is ever final. Not the good ones, and not the bad ones. It’s so normal to feel triggered throughout the holiday season as we are reminded of happy and sad times, those who are no longer with us, and we revisit places that carry deep core memories from moments of impact throughout our lives.
    There’s a saying in therapy: “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” If a particular event, feeling, person, or thought elicits a very big “hysterical” feeling or response, it’s an indication of a pattern we’ve experienced many times throughout our lives. If we can pause in these moments and remind ourselves we are experiencing one isolated incident and not all of the previous moments tied to this feeling collectively, we can respond with the appropriate size of reaction and even rewrite history by responding differently than we ever have before.
    You are not your feelings, and if we can experience feelings without judgment, they will be allowed to pass through us much more efficiently than if we try to combat, avoid, deflect, or cling to them. As we navigate this season together, give yourself grace when feelings arise, and remind yourself no feeling will last forever.
  2. Find small moments to bring you joy. The little things so often become the big things. If we can learn to find joy in small moments, in a quiet cup of coffee as the sun comes up, smiling at a stranger on a walk in the neighborhood, getting lost in a good book, hitting all green lights on the way to the grocery store, or finding small moments of stillness amongst the chaos, we can rewire our minds to lean toward all we have rather than the things we are lacking.
    If we can shift our perspective to find the things we are thankful for in a season that might feel heavy or difficult to navigate, we will realize there are small moments of joy and connection nestled in the midst of even our most painful experiences. Every day might not be good, but there is good in every day.
  3. Create new traditions. Often, a big trigger throughout the holidays is the reminder of traditions or memories that no longer occur. Society tells us all the things we “should” do throughout this season, but there are no rules on how to best navigate these months. Who says you can’t trade turkey for takeout Chinese food or watch a horror movie every Christmas Eve? Sometimes planting new seeds of tradition in our heart allows flowers to grow in the places we thought for sure would never bloom again. This holiday season, I challenge you to create a new tradition, alone or with those you love, and let yourself get excited to repeat that new tradition in all the years to come.
  4. Reach out for connection. The holidays are a busy time for many, but sometimes small amounts of connection or being reminded we are not alone is the very thing that gets us (and those we love) through these seasons. When we put our pride or concern of being a burden aside to reach out to someone and connect, we are reminded time and time again that we are never alone. So often, I have been humbled when I call a friend or loved one to tell them I have been struggling in a season of my life, and their immediate response is, “You too?? I thought for sure I was the only one.”
    If you find yourself in a low point this holiday season, reach out to someone you love. Call to check in and say hi. Send the text message. Leave the voicemail. Invite them over for dinner or share your ideas for the new tradition you’re going to create.
    We rise by lifting others, and the driving force behind almost all forward momentum is true and honest connection.
  5. Find something to look forward to. When we find ourselves inside a dark tunnel, we can create a light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. It might not make the tunnel any shorter, but it will definitely make the path we must navigate a little brighter. Plan a trip or a staycation, sign up for a cooking class, a dance class, or cross something else off your bucket list that you’ve been putting off for far too long. Schedule something at the end of the holidays to reward yourself for making it through a heavy time, and set your sights on that event or date in the moments you need a little light to break up the darkness.
  6. Find gratitude in every season. It’s often in the moments I feel the least thankful that I need the reminder of all I have to be thankful for. When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed or feel a “woe is me” attitude overtake my day, I pause to list (either physically or mentally) five things I am thankful for. Once I start listing these things, it’s hard to stop at just five. It’s incredible how quickly I can reset the tone for my day by pausing to think about all the reasons I have to be thankful. Even the simplest things, such as, I have food, I have a roof over my head, I have people in my life who love me, and I woke up this morning, can often give me the perspective I need to change my attitude and move forward from a place of positivity and optimism. As you navigate this season, I invite you to make a daily list of five things you have to be thankful for. Watch the magic that happens when you focus on all you already have.
    Sending so much light and love to all my Idaho Family Magazine friends and family as we enter into this holiday season together. May it be better than you could have imagined; filled with hope, light, love, and, most importantly, so much grace for yourself. You are not alone.

Macaile Hutt is the Director of Occupational Therapy for Star Speech and Occupational Therapy located in Star, Idaho. Her therapy style takes a holistic and child-directed approach, with the goal of children succeeding across multiple environments. She holds a master’s degree in occupational therapy from A.T. Still University and has received continuing education as a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional for Children and Adolescents (CCATP-CA), Handwriting Without Tears, pediatric kinesiotaping, Interactive Metronome, and Beckman Oral Motor. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, backpacking, and traveling.

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