Home for the Holidays Nancy D. Losinno, EAP Manager
Holidays…A Cause for Celebration • Filled with memories, both positive and negative • Links to loved ones, living or deceased • Memories of food, smells, music, traditions • Family, family, family
Holiday Blues? • Loss, loneliness and nostalgia can make holidays difficult for many people • Some people secretly dread the holidays • Divorce, death and distance are especially painful • Estrangement from family (due to conflicts) is especially difficult at this time • What about those who have no family? • Solution? Plan ahead!!
Holiday Stress and Divorced Families • Children get caught in a “destination tug-of-war,” caught between dueling ex-spouses over whose family traditions can’t be broken • How to blend these children into new family traditions involving custodial and non-custodial parents, new stepparents and their families, possible new siblings, etc. • Different rules may apply regarding gift-giving • TIP: Be flexible about arrangements. Consider other types of holiday events such as brunches, cookie parties, plans for day-after or day-before in order to take pressure off one day.
Divorce and The Absent Parent • Children should be allowed to discuss their feelings without other parent criticizing absent parent • Be aware of different types of families as you talk about holiday plans. Encourage children to share their plans and make items for all family members. • Children need to be encouraged to talk about their personal experience with family and be able to validate their own (single-parent, grandparents as caregivers, stepfamily/blended, etc.) Too often we define family as the 2-parent/2-child type and this excludes the experiences of many other families. • TIP: Be realistic about what you can and cannot have control of. Children will experience conflicting loyalties between parents & these loyalties can change with time. You can only provide reassurance of your love, despite the changing tides and work to create a safe, predictable and loving environment for your children. Try to practice forgiveness to your ex-spouse as well as yourself.
The Empty Seat • Is someone missing at the table? (relocation, illness, death, military service, nursing home placement, etc.) • It may be the thing in the middle of the room that everyone just cant talk about • Is the nest getting emptied? • TIP: Holiday depression is not inevitable. Know that you will get through it. Confide how you feel to a close friend and get support. Create some new traditions to acknowledge your loved one. Cultivate spirituality and remembering the needy. Replace love with more love.
Financial Hardship • Set a budget and be realistic about expectations. Examine your attitudes about creating the “perfect holiday.” • Decide what you can realistically spend without going into debt. Maybe this is the year to do major cutting-back on extended family gift-giving. Plan how to achieve your goals in advance. • TIP: Using cash will keep you in reality. Don’t try to out-do other family members and resist the temptation for the latest electronic fads which are always over-priced before the holidays. Think through your purchases and be realistic about how your year-round budget can be sabotaged by out-of-control holiday spending. Before you buy another animated outdoor decoration, try to think if you even have the space to store it afterwards.
Avoid Hectic Over-Scheduling • Get enough rest and wash your hands after coming in from shopping (you might just dodge getting the flu). • Leave 15 minutes earlier when you have to go somewhere since there is always more traffic. Put your personal safety first. • Be willing to consider down-sizing your holiday a bit (less food, less decorating, etc.) This will eliminate much stress. • Participate in the United Way fundraising events as a way of creating new traditions for the holidays as well as seeing the holidays through the eyes of others less fortunate.
Find New Holiday Fun • House walks, community songfests, church concerts, etc. • Day-in-the-City trips to see traditional or new places of interest. Scan the newspapers in advance and wear comfortable walking shoes. • Plan a fun post-holiday activity to look forward to. Include those who have lost spouses or whose families are far away. See special friends during holiday week and try to revel in the sounds and sights of the season.
Avoid Family Conflicts • Heal past hurts through forgiveness and “letting go.” • Share fun stories of family members now gone. Build an oral history to pass down with love and appreciation. • Do not participate in any alienation strategies that target any absent family member (sibling to sibling, or parent/adult child.) • Remember that over-indulgence in alcohol can ruin a holiday for many due to personality changes, bad behavior, etc. • TIP: The holidays are not the time to iron out old family differences, or to bring up old grudges. If other people do this to you, practice becoming deaf and move away.
Holiday Excesses and Surprises • See Top Ten Ways to Get a DWI this Holiday Season. Please don’t drink & drive… • Avoid burning your meal, falling asleep at the table, or turning the day into a crisis. Limit your alcohol consumption. Be considerate of others…its their holiday too. Try to be on time to family affairs and not keep others waiting for you. • Do not attempt to diet during the holidays but plan to make good choices. Resist the appetizers, fried foods, limit sweets. Try to maintain your weight during the holidays vs. gaining.
Combating the Holiday Blues • Are you really supposed to be happy during the holidays? Recognize the complexity of your life, validate it, and find outlets. • Find the romance in winter…a perfect excuse to snuggle up with someone and sip something warm. • The joy of winter sports…skiing, snowboarding, tubing, ice-skating & snowball throwing. • Take a break and escape to a warm climate. • Distract yourself with an indoor hobby, a class, a collection of something. • Buy a full-spectrum light (see Winter Depression at BNL EAP website for resources & downloadable book).
Happiness Myths • #1. Happiness must be “found” out there somewhere, a place just beyond our reach. Don’t be the person who is waiting for this or that to happen before you can be happy. 40% of our happiness is determined by intentional activity. Appreciate the promise of the great impact that you can make on your own life through intentional strategies.
Happiness Myths • #2. Happiness Lies in Changing Our Circumstances. Actually, changes in our circumstances no matter how positive and stunning, actually have little bearing on our well-being. • #3. You Either Have It or You Don’t. This notion—that we are born happy or unhappy, is misleading. Many people think that the cause is genetic. Growing research demonstrates persuasively that we can overcome genetic programming.
Creating More Happiness • Express gratitude: wonder, appreciation, looking at the bright side of a setback, thanking someone in your life, thanking God, counting blessings, savoring, not taking things for granted, coping, striving to notice how fortunate your circumstances are or how much worse they could be. • People who practice gratitude are happier, more energetic, helpful, empathic, more spiritual, more forgiving. They are less anxious, lonely, envious or neurotic.
Happiness and Cultivating Optimism • Looking on the bright side, finding the silver lining, noticing what’s right, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, feeling good about your future, or just trusting that you can get through the day. • Look to create Your Best Possible Self this holiday season • Make optimism a habit that you start practicing now!
Happiness and Avoiding Comparisons • Avoid over-thinking and comparing your situation to that of others. • Cut yourself loose from ruminating about what you don’t have, a behavior that can be addictive and lead to depression. • Act to solve problems. Get a new perspective on yourself and on your life in general to start off the New Year. Take small steps to overcome what you would like to change in the New Year. • Look at “the big picture.”
Practice Acts of Kindness • It increases happiness because of its impact on self-perception. When you commit to acts of kindness you may begin to view yourself as an altruistic and compassionate person. This new identity can promote a sense of confidence, optimism and usefulness. Also it highlights your abilities, resources and expertise. • Kindness can also jump-start a cascade of positive social consequences. Helping others leads people to like you, to offer gratitude. It also satisfies a need to connect with others.
Investing in Relationships • Make time for your partner this holiday season. Create a stress-free zone. Express admiration, appreciation and affection for how you both help the other. Manage conflicts and recognize your good fortune. Share an inner life. • Relationships are exceedingly important to well-being, including those with pets. For fun, send holiday letters from your pet to other pets in the family. • Friendships don’t just happen. They need to be nurtured. Make time and show interest in other people and offer them encouragement. Once a friendship forms, create rituals that allow you to get together and be in touch. Try to reach out to your friends especially at the holiday season to let them know how much you value their friendship.
Learning to Forgive • The painful ordeal may come from being wronged, hurt, attacked, betrayed, insulted, offended or abused physically, sexually or emotionally. Natural inclination is to retaliate with more harm. Trying to distance yourself from the transgressor ultimately makes you unhappy, or may damage/destroy more relationships. • Why forgive? You do it for yourself. • Does not involve re-establishment of the relationship, pardoning, condoning, justifying, minimizing, tolerating, excusing, or denial of harm. • How does it feel if you have forgiven someone? Its when you experience a shift in thinking and your desire to harm that person is decreased.
How to Practice Forgiveness • The most challenging happiness-promoting activity. No pain, no gain. • Try to remember how you felt when you were forgiven for something. How did the person do it? • Seek forgiveness for something you did and accept that sometimes you are the transgressor. Write a letter if you are still in contact with the other person. If the person is deceased, write the letter anyway but shred/burn, etc. How do you propose to make amends? • Practice empathy for others…the vicarious experience and understanding of another person’s motives and struggles. • Consider charitable attributions to the transgression. • Ruminate or dwell less on how bad you are feeling or on a worrisome thought process. Get out of the habit of brooding and obsessing over hurts • Forgiving thoughts: I forgive my father for his alcoholism…I forgive my friend for using me….I forgive my brother for humiliating me at last Christmas dinner….I forgive the driver who just cut me off.
Accessing EAP during the Holidays and Everyday • 24/7 telephonic crisis coverage provided by Magellan Behavioral Health at 1-800-327-2182, no matter what insurance plan you have elected (Cigna, Vytra, HIP, Aetna). You have up to five free visits. • Onsite full-time EAP Manager Nancy Losinno, Call X4567. Walk-ins accepted, but appointments are encouraged. • BNL EAP website: www.bnl.gov/hr/occmed/EAP • A network of community-based clinicians who can see you or your household family members for up to 5 visits per person/per problem/per year. THIS IS A FREE BENEFIT TO ALL EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS. Call X4567 for recommendations or the above 800# during weekends/holidays. • Have a safe, happy, healthy and joyous holiday!