When the Holidays are Bright.... with Anger


People have become more aware how heightened emotions can be around the holiday season. There is a plethora of articles and thinkpieces today discussing how to handle depression, anxiety and grief during end of the year events and festivities.

But many people, especially those with existing difficulties managing their anger, often believe their waves of rage are unique only to them.

That is most definitely NOT the case but thinking that no one understands your trigger and/or response can exacerbate your negative emotions and cause you to escalate.

Spending time with relatives you have not seen for months or years, seeing co-workers outside of the office combined with the financial strain of gift giving can create feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt and obligation. Managing your boundaries and identifying your emotions take practice and the holidays are not always the ideal place to begin. Here are a few tips on ways you can control these emotions before you end up seeing red.

1. Practice mindfulness - When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a walk around the neighborhood, find a quiet place where you can be alone and clear your head (even if it's in the car), or just focus on your breathing. This is a great way to hit the reset button before your emotions take over.

2. Make plans for yourself - If you are staying with family, make time to go out on your own. This is where you have to foresee your needs and prepare to communicate your needs. Before your visits or trip, identify a friend to call, identify a person (buffer) that you can provide a code word for escape.

3. Don't rise to the bait - No one knows quite how to hit your buttons and focus in on the things you feel most insecure about like your family. Understand that this is not about you and don't provide more fuel by engaging in the unhealthy conversations. Remember, you get to choose, you CAN control the pace of the conversation and you have the capability to change the topic.

4. Don't overdo it! - The holidays have a built in "should" which is often what contributes to negative thinking and emotions. It's a natural reaction when dealing with stress to revert to old behaviors and poor coping skills. Be mindful of your alcohol intake as well as other substances that can contribute to escalating negative responses. The best intentions can sometimes get out of hand.

Don't second guess yourself for knowing what you need. I encourage you to be motivated to advocate for yourself and say "NO" when you need to. Be mindful of where you are in managing your emotions and take care of you. Your negative thoughts and emotions are yours - own them and protect yourself so that you too can have a pleasant experience in this season.