Top 5 Tips for Healing during the Holidays
At the request of the writer, their identity will be kept anonymous at this time
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!... While it is a magical time, the holidays can bring up a lot of trauma. My birthday is the week before Christmas, and when I was younger, I was OBSESSED with my birthday. Everything changed the year of my 15th birthday. My relationship started to turn abusive, and my friends were bullying me online. By the time January rolled around, I was so stressed and depressed that the tiniest thing would set me off. Keeping things bottled up was my go-to defense mechanism. I carried my trauma with me, and it was so heavy. In therapy, we compared it to a cinder block. I was in so much pain carrying these cinder blocks on my back. I noticed these cinder blocks getting lighter and lighter throughout my healing process, and eventually, the weight was lifted. I can now truly enjoy the holidays again, and five leading practices have helped me through this process.
#1: Talk to the people who allow you to feel safe in your vulnerability.
That can be a close friend or family member, or therapist. At the beginning of my healing, I was afraid to go to a therapist. I didn't want people to think I was crazy, and I didn't want to open myself up and reopen those wounds. Now I know the only way to lose that feeling of cinder blocks is to speak to someone I trust. It can be scary at first, but like my mom always says, do one thing every day that scares you. I had to take that leap into my healing, and it has brought me so much hope. When choosing a therapist, make sure they work for you, and you feel safe in their space.
#2: Walk, run, dance, just move your body!
Working out was my favorite thing to do at the beginning of my healing journey. I loved dancing and boxing but walking saved me. I would put my headphones in, listen to some music or a podcast and just walk out my frustrations. I recently took my walking to the next level and started training for a 15k. Boxing was a mixed situation for me. I would go into classes and feel so angry that I just had to punch the bag, and though it did help me release some anger, I'd usually leave not feeling satisfied. Dancing is my favorite workout. I love Zumba. Whenever I am in a bad mood, I put on my favorite dance songs and cut a rug. It's even better when there is a Zumba class because everyone around you is so happy and dancing; it just puts me in such a good mood. Recently, I've also started practicing yoga. It helps my breathing, and it allows me to disconnect from my phone and shut off the world.
#3: Meditation and journaling
Meditation can be tricky, but I've learned that the key to staying focused is to remove any distractions and keep my phone on silent and far away from me. Focus on your breathing, feeling your chest rise and fall with the breaths you take. If you need a guide, use it! You can try it right now; take a deep breath, hold it for 3 seconds, audibly exhale for 4 seconds. Ground yourself. Remember, you are in control. Journaling can be a meditation as well. I suggest actually writing and not typing because our brain slows down when we write. When I struggle with self-doubt, I write down 5 things I am thankful for. One helpful method for healing from self-doubt is to journal in the third person. For example, after my ex and I broke up, I struggled a lot with what he would say to me. I hated that those words were embedded into my brain; I am worthless, I am dirty, and I will never amount to anything. So, I'd write, "She is worthless, she is dirty, she will never amount to anything." Why would someone speak like that to someone? No one is worthless or dirty, and everyone will have rough patches, but her future is bright!
#4: When you need a treat, treat yourself.
If you are out shopping and see this perfect sweater you absolutely need to have, GET IT! If you enjoy massages, go to a spa! My sister got me interested in massages. I never really liked them, but that's how she de-stresses. For me, I love to get a manicure. My part of self-care is just to get a nice manicure every few weeks. It gets me out of the house and gets me to talk with people, and I don't get to look at my phone. Take time to do things you enjoy. It is good for you in every aspect. Times are tough, but so are you. Give yourself what you need during this time!
#5: When you need to cry, CRY.
Growing up, like so many people, I thought crying made you weak. I thought it showed that the person who hurt you won. It took a long time for me to realize that crying is healing. I never wanted to cry in front of people because vulnerability is SCARY. I hated being vulnerable; I loved being scary to people because it felt safer. In reality, I was hurting my existing relationships, and I wasn't making any new ones. Letting your guard down is so hard but so worth it.
Holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of year, but it took a long time for me to actually have a good December, a good birthday, a good Christmas. During my darkest times, I broke down every 12 hours and thought to myself, when will I be normal? But honestly, what is normal? What does it look like? It is NORMAL to cry. It is NORMAL to have bad days, bad weeks, etc. It's NORMAL to struggle during the holidays. I've learned to throw away the term "normal" because we are all normal no matter what we are going through. Healing is rarely easy, nor is it a linear path. One day it hurts so deep you don't want to get out of bed; the next, you're out shopping with your best friends, laughing out loud celebrating life. It's a part of being human, and we are all in this together. Be in the moment, be present, and remember that you are amazing. You are breathing, and that is enough. Remember, your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep the faith. It will all be worth it in the end.