If you are feeling down or depressed this holiday season, you are not alone.
My client Jenny (not her real name) recently told me she feels depressed just thinking about Christmas because “I have to be stuck for days with all these people with great lives, beautiful homes and children, and it just reminds me of all my failures.”
This time of year we’re flooded with cheerful images of happy people having a great time. Unfortunately, many people may be putting on a brave face.
In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or addiction. So don’t be surprised if someone you know is feeling anxious or depressed during the holiday season.
Maybe you aren’t feeling so jazzed about the holidays?
For some people, the holidays can trigger powerful memories of unresolved family problems and power struggles. Many people wrestle with the absence or loss of loved ones this time of year. Couples struggle to agree on spending decisions. For my client Jenny, the holidays mark another year of failed relationships and unmet life and career goals.
Avoiding Suffering Can Leave You Feeling Depressed
One thing we often do when someone is feeling down is try to cheer them up. We force conversation, we make jokes to lighten the tension or we offer them a drink.
If we are unhappy ourselves, we agree to do more than we actually feel up to doing.
While distracting ourselves can make us feel better temporarily, it can also cause resentment, delay healing and leave us feeling depressed. What people who are suffering really need is someone who can listen and be present to their needs.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] The most precious thing we can offer someone is our presence. How can you love if you are not there? – Thich Nhat Hanh. [/quote]
Being Present Is A Gift
The holidays are a great chance to make time for one another because we have more time to listen.
For example, to help Jenny, we might say “You don’t seem yourself this year, are you ok Jenny? Do you want to talk?”
It’s important to resist the temptation to judge or try to solve the problem. “I can see how hard this is for you right now Jenny. In fact, it’s even hard for me to see you going through this.”
Finally, we can acknowledge her desire for things to be different “I can see how much you would like things to be different, Jenny. How can help you get through this difficult time?”
Just by being present, we send a simple but powerful message: “I am here for you.” This is the first step toward healing.
While the person may even feel better temporarily, this isn’t the only goal. The goal is to build resilience.
Deep Listening Is Healing
Listening deeply or being present to the lives and needs of others is a generous gift, because it lightens the burden of feeling alone with our problems. Indigenous cultures have a long history of listening in healing circles as a means of helping lighten the load of others.
Just the experience of not being alone with our problems can be transformative. Seeing we aren’t not alone, is a gift that inspires to find the strength, to keep moving forward, just as so many people before us have found their way through painful and tragic circumstances.
Compassionate listening opens the door for healing and can prevent problems from escalating into more serious mental health problems.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]As long as we are breathing, there is more right with you, than wrong with you – John Kabat-Zinn[/quote]
While it’s important to have someone listen, it is also important not to dwell too long in our suffering. Giving ourselves permission to feel angry, anxious, down or depressed for a short period each day is natural and healthy. Allowing ourselves to stay there for extended periods isn’t.
Be sure to make time to be grateful for all that’s going well. We can start with the fact that we are breathing. Ignoring the joys and wonders of life can be just as harmful as ignoring suffering, and there is so much to be grateful for.
Experiencing suffering is as natural and normal as experiencing joy. But it’s managing the coming and going of both – at all times of the year – that makes us truly human.
Holiday Promotion: 40% off Online Counselling Therapy
While the holidays may be a difficult time for many people, it can also provide an opportunity for rest, reflection, and a fresh start. Make time for you this holiday season. We are offering 40% off Online Counselling between Dec 25th, 2017 and Jan 2nd, 2018.
From our home to yours,