The media often portrays the holiday season as filled with love and hope. The truth, for many, looks different, especially for those who have experienced attack or rejection from those they spend time with. If this is your history, dread of the holidays is a feeling you’re likely used to. Of course, you deserve far better.
I’ve been there, and like many, I’ve found affirmations helpful when overcoming dread of the holidays. In fact, one study (Jennifer M. Taber, et al, 2016) suggests that optimism and self-affirmation can make such a marked difference that they can even affect our physical health. It’s important, however, to choose affirmations that feel right for you. So here are a few I’ve selected for dealing with holiday dread. You can choose any that feel like a fit, or use them to help inspire your own:
- “Once I’m doing it, I’ll just be doing it.” For some, dread visits us in the form of repeating fears or visions of what might come. This affirmation can help you to stop obsessing about various scenarios and bring yourself back to the present moment, and the truth that life can be doing rather than feeling. Realizing that the situations you’re dreading will also be just a series of present moments—nothing more—can help to calm your mind.
- “Whatever happens, I’ll handle it.” This affirmation is from Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. For those who fear they won’t be able to cope with what lies ahead, Jeffers advises us to build the trust “that whatever happens in your life, you can handle it all.” The simple awareness that you are all you need in order to cope with every eventuality, can help you transform your fears.
- “My feelings are just feelings,” and “I am bigger than my [fear/anger].” Sometimes, the expectation of feeling hurt or stressed can prove just as destructive as the actual experience. By allowing yourself to accept that you don’t have to fear your feelings, you can help to release dread. These two affirmations can also help you to deal calmly with emotions you might feel during the holidays themselves.
- “I am free to be new.” This is from behappy.com, where blogger Jen reminds us we are absolutely capable of changing our minds, transforming our feelings or actions, and being “new and renewed at any time.” Just because a situation has always gone similarly in the past, doesn’t mean that we can’t change that situation in future. If you are determined to deal differently with a gathering this time—perhaps even by not attending, which can be the most important choice for those who feel unsafe and/or traumatized—the above affirmation can be especially helpful.
- “I wonder what will happen!” or (in third person) “I wonder what [Your Name] will do!” This is more a phrase than an affirmation, but it can be equally empowering. Here’s why: A riveting story contains emotional conflicts that might be terrible for the characters to experience, but for us, as readers, viewers, or listeners, are compelling. This is because we usually have emotional distance from a story—“wondering what’s next” is far more detached than “dreading” it. We can also create this same sort of emotional distance for ourselves, when we acknowledge that our own lives are effectively developing stories. As with a work of fiction, we can be excited by what’s coming, especially when we release our attempts to control life—or the rich story we’re part of.
While these affirmations can be powerful for dealing with fear of the holidays, it’s important to remember that you also have other choices. And saying “no” is one of them. Don’t put yourself into a position where you are physically or emotionally unsafe. Look after you. Protect and love yourself.
And if things feel tough, here are a couple of helplines that offer support:
Suicide Prevention Helpline