Coping with Disappointment Over the Holidays
The holidays can be stressful enough as it is, but when something unexpected happens, feelings of disappointment can be overwhelming. Here are some tips for coping with holiday let-downs.
Any one of us may experience an unexpected let-down over the holidays. Are you feeling sad about:
- The death of a family member, pet or someone who was an important part of your life?
- Breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Not getting a holiday bonus or being recognized for your contributions at work?
- Friends and loved ones not being able to make it home for the holidays?
- Not getting a marriage proposal from your longtime lover or romantic partner?
- Coming down with a major flu or illness that disrupted your vacation plans?
- Getting sick over the holidays and not being able to join in holiday festivities?
Which holiday feels the most stressful to you?
As the holiday season approaches, we seem to be inundated with endless cheerful messages about what an ideal Thanksgiving or Christmas should look like: romantic gifts, marriage proposals, children who behave, optimal health, endless gifts under the tree and, of course, meals that come out of the oven perfectly, every time. But what if those so-called TV realities just aren’t your reality right now? How do you begin coping with the fact that life doesn't always turn out the way you want it to?
Be clear about what it is that you want in the first place. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid disappointment over the holidays is to take responsibility for communicating your needs clearly. That doesn’t mean things will necessarily turn out the way you want them to, but if they don’t, at least you won’t have to second guess yourself: "Why didn't I let him know how I felt about our relationship?"
Give yourself time and space to acknowledge your sense of disappointment. Sometimes people think that when things don’t turn out the way they wanted them to, they just need to suck it up and get on with it. They need to get back on that proverbial horse and keep on riding.
But what if you broke your arm when you fell off that horse? Shouldn’t a broken arm be properly taken care of? If you were to try to ride a horse with a broken arm, could you ride it properly? Could you guide the horse in all the right directions or would you simply go around in circles?
The same thinking applies to how you treat yourself when you've been hurt by an unexpected setback. You need to take care of your hurts so that when you are finally able to get back on the horse, you can steer it and your life in the right direction. It’s difficult to recover from a major disappointment unless you've acknowledged your loss and given yourself permission to feel sad.
Set new goals or simply tweak the ones that you set earlier. Find other things to look forward to, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Find some fun and mindless ways to amuse yourself when things don't go your way.
Keep yourself busy with simple tasks. I find working on simple cleaning tasks can be very satisfying; they make me feel like I am actually making some sort of useful progress.
Please note, if you find that your holiday stress levels are becoming unmanageable and you are having a hard time coping, consider seeking additional support from qualified mental healthcare professionals (i.e.; your family doctor, a counselor, or a crisis intervention hotline). The holidays are a well-known trigger for stress-related health issues. Don't be afraid to ask for professional guidance and support if you are feeling overwhelmed.
How do you cope with life's ups and downs over the holidays? Please share your thoughts and leave a comment.
For fast-acting relief try slowing down.— Lily Tomlin, Comedian
© 2014 Sadie Holloway