Archive of ‘Holidays’ category

New Year’s Resolution Alternatives

Congratulations – you made it through another year! Another trip around the sun full of triumph, tragedy, and all of the beautiful nuances in between. Inevitably, with the closeout of a year comes the onset of a new one, and alongside that new year comes a bit of baggage in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. I am going to let you all in on a little secret…. I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I know, it’s a strong statement! Keep reading, let me explain.

New Year, New Me?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate our opportunity to focus on self-improvement, wellness, and making changes. I love the idea of utilizing the symbolic nature of a new year to create a new chapter, bookend the past year, and paint a new vision for the future. What irks me about New Year’s Resolutions is the implication that we didn’t do something “good enough” over the past year. It’s the idea that in order to have lived what is considered a “good” day, week, or year, we have to continually strive to meet some arbitrary expectation set for ourselves to be better – as if being ourselves isn’t enough. To resolve ourselves to some big change just because the date on the calendar changes feels harsh and full of undue pressure on ourselves. It is also unforgiving of the complexities and nuances that we have faced within the last 365 days, and the ones we will face in the next 365 days. We go through so much just existing and being human in the state of the world, and you’ve made it so far. That’s a big accomplishment! We are all doing the best we can to survive and thrive within our given circumstances. You are amazing, worthy, and beautiful just the way you are, and a new date on the calendar does not mean you need to “resolve” anything about yourself! 

Resolution Alternatives

With that being said, I can certainly appreciate the tendency to look towards the new year and feel the need to create meaning, excitement, goals, and joy around it. I’ve come up with a few of my favorite alternatives to the traditional New Year’s Resolutions. 

New Year’s Intentions

Intentions are a little less intense than a resolution! I love setting intentions because it allows for a more fluid way to look forward and create momentum for your year without setting hard goals. If you are unsure of the specific ways you want to create change in your year, that is okay! Intentions allow for some flexibility in the way we create our goals (or not!) and allow for us to mold our behaviors to our intention, rather than force our intention to fit our behaviors. Consider what you would like to potentially incorporate into your new year that is different from prior years and use this as a way to guide your goal setting going forward. 

New Year’s Theme Word

Pick a theme, not a resolution! Find one or two words that describe what you are hoping to bring in your new year. Again, themes are about fluidity and flexibility. Keep track of your theme by dedicating a journal to your theme word. Consider journaling at the end of each week or month about how you embodied your theme word throughout that time period, so you maintain accountability towards your theme word, yet maintain grace for yourself as you progress in the new year.

New Year’s Reflections

Rather than looking forward on this New Year’s Eve, take a minute to reflect back on the last year. Ask yourself some open-ended questions about the lessons you learned, accomplishments you made, areas of growth and challenges you faced. Journal, draw, or share them with a trusted friend (or therapist!). In your reflections, hold space for the wide breadth and depth of the experiences within your year. This practice may not get you closer to a defined goal, but you’ll develop a deeper understanding of what you want to leave behind in the past year and what you would like to bring with you into the new one. 

New Year’s Gratitude

To quote the great Brene Brown – “Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we are enough.” I believe gratitude is a crucial accompaniment to any New Year’s ritual practice. In order for us to continue to look forward without creating shame or harsh judgments towards ourselves, we need to honor ourselves first. Consider starting a bullet journal of gratitude with all of the amazing things this year contained! You survived another year of a pandemic. Maybe you landed a new job, started a new hobby, cultivated deeper relationships, or took the leap of starting therapy. Maybe you just were able to make it through every day, and that is certainly worth celebrating too! You are wonderful just as you are. You are a breathing, walking miracle capable of creating sunshine in a dark place. That is deserving of recognition and gratitude. Cultivating a gratitude practice will help maintain strong levels of encouragement and appreciation throughout your new year. 

As we enter this new year full of excitement, suspense, and wonder I want to encourage you to hold true to your own authentic place in this journey. Whatever your feelings are towards New Year’s Resolutions are valid! If you are a goal setting go-getter ready to take on 2022, great! If you’re a little more hesitant and unsure of what you want this new year to look like, that’s okay too. Holding true to your own feelings and authenticity surrounding this transition is the best resolution you can make to yourself. If you want some support around your journey with yourself, consider reaching out to a therapist. We are here and ready to help you create the life you are looking for! 


Holiday Survival Guide – 2020 Edition

It is no surprise that our holiday season is going to look a little… different this year. As we wrap up the last two months of 2020, some may be feeling excitement as their favorite time of the year approaches, while others may be feeling anxious, dread, and sadness as they anticipate the upcoming months. Here are three realistic mental health tips to keep in mind as we enter the 2020 holiday season:

Make decisions that feel best for you.

Everyone has an opinion. Literally everyone. At the end of the day, the most important opinion to listen to when it comes to your decisions is your opinion. How are you feeling about family gatherings this year? When you think of a family gathering, do you feel a pit in your stomach or excitement? Whatever is coming up for you as you ponder upon this thought, honor it. Humans are intuitive by nature and we have an internal compass that helps us navigate through life and the difficult decisions that come with the journey. Different family members may feel differently about family gatherings this year, and that is okay! Avoid letting others dictate what you should (or shouldn’t) do; that is for you to decide. Try to advocate for yourself this holiday season by doing some self-reflection, honoring your feelings, and making (safe) decisions accordingly.

Give yourself time to grieve.

When we think of grief, we often associate it with the passing of someone we love dearly (including our beloved animals friends). Grief is also applicable to other changes in life that are less commonly recognized, such as the ending of a relationship or friendship, moving to a new city, transitioning from high school to college, transitioning from college into the working world, and even the ending of a habit, routine, or aspect of one’s life that was previously enjoyed. The connection between all these events is that they are major life transitions, both expected and unexpected. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly falls under the umbrella of unexpected changes! Once these transitions occur, we then experience an internal understanding that life is not going to be the same moving forward. Grief is a natural response to loss; it is not a comfortable experience, but it is an important part of the life journey for human beings. So, what do we do to help process these heavy, uncomfortable, and confusing feelings? We acknowledge them, feel them, and honor them. For healing to begin, the pain and uncomfortable feelings must be faced and not denied. If denied, the grieving process is prolonged. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and each individual person has a grieving process that is unique to them. For this reason, do not let anyone tell you how to feel, and do not tell yourself how you should feel either.

Make time for yourself.

Self-care is something that is often talked about yet rarely understood. At its core, it is all about carving out time for yourself to do something that brings you joy. It helps refuel us rather than take energy from us. What do you need to feel your best? Is it exercise, quiet reading time, or just a moment to sit in quiet? Self-care doesn’t have to consume hours of time, simply being aware of what you need to feel your best and being intentional about carving out time to make it happen over the course of a week, may be the act that you need to remind yourself that no matter what happens, you have your own back.

With this in mind, know that there is no “right” way to do the holidays this year other than what feels right for you and those you love. We must remember to respect the decisions of others without judgement and apply this same understanding and respect to ourselves. If you are feeling on the fence about making a decision or don’t quite know what your comfort level is just yet, check out this helpful article by the CDC regarding how to safely gather this holiday season. Well wishes and safety to everyone this holiday season.

Written by: Taylor Vest, LPC-Intern Supervised by Karen Burke, LPC-S, RPT-S

Grief, Family, and the Holidays

Holidays can be difficult for a variety of reasons; after all, the holiday season can bring up all kinds of feelings. This can be especially difficult when your family has suffered a loss of any kind. It’s a time when families often get together, thereby making losses more noticeable. Tensions between family members may already be high, and there is often a wealth of memories tied to the holidays, both joyful and difficult. The holidays can be painful reminders as well as an opportunities to reminisce, strengthen relationships, and revive old traditions or create new ones.

Everyone is Different

Just as everyone in your family has their own personality and ways of dealing with stress, people often grieve differently. Grief sometimes comes in waves, and may seem delayed for some people, especially children. It’s not something we get over or move on from, but we do move forward. We incorporate the loss into our life story, and may make meaning of that loss in different ways. We may feel the grief less often or less intensely, but it doesn’t go away completely. Children may grieve differently too, depending on where they are developmentally. They may also experience various aspects of the loss, or grieve again, as they reach new developmental stages. 

Navigating Traditions and Rituals

One thing the holiday season invites is tradition. When someone who was part of a yearly ritual or tradition dies, that inevitably changes our experience of it. Just as individuals and families grieve in different ways, family members may have varying ideas about what to do with those traditions. Questions about changing or skipping traditions may arise. While family members may disagree about how to move forward, it is important to let everyone express their feelings, thoughts, concerns, and hopes. Discuss which activities the family wants to keep, which to skip, and what could be added. Is there a way the family can honor the person who has died, knowing that things won’t ever be the same as they were? When possible, give children choices about whether or not to participate. 

Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Take 5 minutes to yourself to breathe, have a cup of tea, or simply be alone. Get coffee with a friend who gets you. Be gentle with yourself—the holidays are full of reminders, both of what you have and who you have lost—give yourself permission to grieve, to cry, to laugh, to enjoy those around you. Whatever you are feeling is okay! It’s also okay to set the boundaries you need, whether that’s by doing less, choosing who to spend your time with, or skipping an event altogether. Listen to your body—try to get the rest you need, stay hydrated, and move if you can. 

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly–that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” Anne Lamott

Resources

If you are struggling and would like additional support, the following organizations offer groups and other grief and loss resources.

The Christi Center

Austin Center for Grief and Loss

Hospice Austin

By: Magdalen Marrone, LCSW

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