But I Don't Feel Happy...Holiday Coping Skills

For all the hype around celebration, for many people the holidays are a really difficult time of year for all sorts of reasons. They can bring reminders of family conflict, of loved ones who aren’t there, of family roles that we’d rather not play. A coping strategy that I’ve found useful for being with family at the holidays is called containment. It involves noticing difficult feelings—of sadness, grief, anger, frustration—that may come up around gatherings. Once feelings are acknowledged privately (“I see you sadness”), you can choose to put these feelings aside for now in a container or “feelings box,” until there’s a good way of releasing them. That release could happen in a therapy session, through journal writing, a talk with a friend or supportive family member, a private confrontation or a walk outside, i.e., any time when you can have feelings safely, where you can feel a sense of support, or where there’s at least space for a full conversation. This way your feelings do get released, but they also don’t get in the way of being present with a group where expressing feelings may not feel safe or welcome.


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