By Susan Parmelee
The holiday season can be hectic, challenging, and sometimes not the picture-perfect celebrations we envision. As we still face the challenges of a long pandemic and an uncertain economy, it can seem a little less cheerful.
However, taking time to pause and celebrate with loved ones is important to our well-being.
The end-of-year holidays and celebrating the New Year allow us time to reflect and perhaps choose intentions for the year ahead. Approaching resolutions more broadly, as opposed to a list of personal changes, can be a helpful approach to overall wellness.
One intention that positive psychologists suggest for countering the challenges we face is compassion.
Compassion is simply defined as “feeling for another” and helps human beings understand the struggles of others. When we use a compassionate perspective, we act with kindness, concern, and altruism.
The rewards of a compassionate approach include increased social connection, improved familial relationships, lower levels of anxiety, and happiness and decreased depression. Compassion is both outward and inward, with self-compassion being equally as important as compassion.
Self-compassion is a tool that most mental health therapists teach their clients and key to countering negative self-talk. We might ask a client to talk to themselves the same way that they might talk to their child or a close friend.
Allow yourself to make mistakes and escape perfectionism. Research has shown that self-compassion leads to reduced symptoms of PTSD, healthier aging, and a reduction in burn-out, particularly in the health care professions.
So, as we head into the holidays, how can we practice compassion and self-compassion? I have already witnessed that many families and individuals in our community have volunteered to sponsor families for the holidays, serve meals to the military, and host festive events that bring cheer to all.
These compassionate practices can be continued year-round and benefit those who give and those who receive. Take a moment to acknowledge this communitywide compassion.
Within our own homes, the traditions we practice are important to self-care; however, over the past few years, many of us have suffered losses, and some of those traditions may no longer meet our emotional needs.
Give yourself permission to adapt these traditions or choose new ones. Try to maintain your healthy habits and make time for yourself when needed. One thing important to me is to remember to focus on what I can control and to let go of perfectionism during the holidays. This practice allows me to focus on enjoying my time with loved ones.
One last important part of compassion is to acknowledge that individuals who have symptoms of mental illness can struggle and isolate during the holidays. Please reach out to friends or family who may need your support.
If you or a loved one is feeling especially sad, stressed, anxious, or depressed, ask for help. Reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) warmline; call or text the OC Warmline at 714.991.6412; and if you or a loved one is suicidal, call 988 or 911.
The Wellness & Prevention Center team wishes you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday season, and we look forward to supporting you in 2023!
Susan Parmelee is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and executive director of the Wellness & Prevention Center: wpc-oc.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.