A study revealed 31% of Americans find the holiday season ‘frantic’, and I’m sure results in the UK and other countries would come up with similar percentages. Big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which both come soon, and close together, can be even more difficult to cope with if you’ve been recently Discarded by your ex Narcissist. Actually, even if you discarded them, or you’ve been away from them for a long time, you can still find the big festive seasons hard to get through.
But why? The reason is we’ve been bludgeoned by society at large, since we were kids, to believe these occasions are happy, joyful, full of gift-giving and turkey dinners with all the trimmings. The media bombards us with images of all this healthy, loving stuff and we feel like complete outsiders if we are not feeling the joy too.
There are several reasons why you loathe or are not looking forward to the festive season. Here are some common ones:
You grew up in an abusive situation where these occasions were not celebrated, or they were, but became a time of more strife because maybe you didn’t receive presents whilst others in your family did and you were left feeling like a rank outsider.
Perhaps such occasions trigger painful memories you want to forget but can’t. Christmas is particularly difficult because all those popular Christmas Songs start playing everywhere you go and it’s impossible to escape them. The shops, TV and Social Media are awash with adverts and all things ‘Christmassy’. You hate every minute of it.
On the other hand, maybe you loved all the fun and festivity, but now you’ve been discarded, or you’re alone, you can’t enjoy it because you feel wretched, abandoned and lonely. Maybe you’ve been isolated and ‘Smear Campaigned’ and feel as if it’s you against the whole world.
Or perhaps the occasion stirs up bittersweet memories fill you with longing for those great times when everything was wonderful in your world. Those times when your Ex was treating you like you walked on water… and your heart aches to have that time back again. Perhaps you had children with your ex and now your children are no longer with you and your heart is breaking as you remember bygone times.
Or maybe you are still in touch with your Narcissistic family and you’re expected to go, and you know it’s going to be like walking barefoot on glass - because you’ve been there before.
Whatever the reason, you find yourself dreading the forthcoming festivities and this can also make your symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, moodiness, trauma bonding or C-PTSD much worse. You may be living in a state of dread, or even fear, and not know how you are going to cope with it all.
You need help, and you need it NOW. So what can you do to get through this year’s festivities? Actually, quite a lot. I’m going to share some ideas with you here!
Tip No 1: Decide to Think Differently
Make a decision this year you are going to handle it differently this year. Decide this is YOUR life, and you are not going to allow yourself to fall into the same pattern of thinking again. Realise your past doesn’t have to define your future. The future is a fluid concept and changing how you think and behave is possible. Keep this thought in mind as you consider the rest of the tips I’ll share. Start by asking yourself: ‘What could I do differently this year?’
Tip No 2: Get Away!
If at all possible, book a trip to somewhere completely different, that you’ve never been to before. If you have a trusted friend who can go with you, great, but if not, go it alone. Book a spa or retreat where the focus will be on you getting pampered. Make this your gift to yourself.
Tip No 3: Do the STOP! Exercise
If you get flashbacks or triggers, do the ‘STOP!’ exercise. As soon as you find yourself thinking of the past, put your hand up and say forcefully ‘STOP!’ And immediately switch the memory to something different. Focus on something good that has happened recently to you. If you can’t think of anything, imagine something good you would like to happen to you. Even something like daydreaming about winning the lottery can totally shift your perspective. Or imagine yourself on a yacht in the middle of the ocean, or at a dream destination. Really focus on it. If you are struggling to capture the image in your mind, go to YouTube and find a match, then sit and watch it. Once you’ve done that, call it up frequently so this image comes to mind very easily anytime you need it. This exercise is giving your brain something new to work with instead of going over the same old painful ground again.
Tip No 4: Swat the Thoughts Away.
As soon as you have a thought you don’t want, try having an imaginary fly swat in your hand and swatting the thought away. The immediately, again, pick another thought to replace it with. This exercise will help you to stop playing the same old audiotape on a loop. You’re interrupting it by hitting pause.
Tip No 5: Move!
If you’re having the thought, change your position. If you’re sitting, stand up and walk around. Look at everything in your environment as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it. For instance, look at all the colours you can see and name them. Then consider the texture of everything. Is it hard, soft, fabric, wood or plastic? Then think about the origins of these materials. What do they come from? Trees? Crude oil? Allow your mind to be curious about these thoughts. If you have no idea, decide it would be quite interesting to find out! This exercise forces your train of thought to change its trajectory so do it every time the thoughts occur. This is how you start taking control of your thoughts rather than letting them control you.
Tip No 6: Ground Yourself
One of my favourites, I recommend it a lot! Ground yourself in your current reality. Observe where are, in the here and now. By worrying about the future, you’re not allowing yourself to be present in the now and it’s not doing you any good. All it’s doing is causing you more stress and anxiety. So using any of the above tips will help you to focus on the now. This gives you back immediate control of your feelings.
Tip No 7: Change Your Perspective
Don’t allow yourself to fall into your own pity party by thinking everyone else is going to have a great time and you’re not. Millions of people the world over don’t celebrate Christmas - and I don’t just mean people who are not ‘Christians’. And Millions more just endure it, get through it, and wish it would be abolished. It’s all about perspective. You can see Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as just days in the year if you choose to. I’ve had many Christmases where I’ve done absolutely nothing whatsoever to mark the occasion. I spent my first Christmas in Spain alone and went hiking with my dogs. No fuss, no tree, no decorations, and definitely no Turkey as I’m a vegetarian! You can also see Christmas for how absurdly commercial it has become as this can help to take the romantic sheen off it.
Tip No 8: Don’t Play Happy Families
If you have a toxic family, ask yourself a simple question: Why bother? Why put yourself through the stress of it if you’re just doing it to please them or meet their expectations? If you haven’t gone ‘No Contact’, ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ What are you getting out of spending Thanksgiving or Christmas – or indeed ANY time - with them? Maybe it’s time to consider cutting the ties altogether and focusing on a future without them. If being around certain people makes you feel uneasy, on edge, diminished, picked on, made fun of, or anything which doesn’t honor and respect you as a person who has a right to be treated with respect, stop giving them the opportunity to do it. Make it clear you are no longer playing this game. Set clear boundaries, tell them you will not be there, and don’t go. You are not required to be anyone’s emotional (or physical, for that matter), punching bag and you have the power to stop it. Do it.
Tip No 9: Take Action Against Toxicity
If you decide to go because not everyone there is the enemy, but you know you will have to face someone who is likely to target you, leave the moment you start feeling abused. An important thing to remember is abuse can only continue if you allow it to and if you stay and accept it, you’re giving out the message it’s ok to continue with this behaviour. Actions speak far louder than words and you can protect yourself by picking up your coat and heading out the door. With a parting shot you won’t be back next year! It might sound like I’m being trite here but I’m not, I know people who have acted like this and I have done it myself when things have gotten out of hand during family arguments during my lifetime. I do not come from a toxic family, but there have been times when arguments have flared between family members and I (being an Empath), cannot bear to be around it and my family now all know if it happens when I’m there, I will leave. Taking yourself out of the situation is the most powerful statement you can make.
Tip No 10: Host Your Own Get-together
Consider hosting a gathering of trusted friends who may be happy to spend Thanksgiving or a chunk of Christmas with you. You just need to talk to them and find out who’s doing what – or not, as the case may be! You might discover some of them don’t want to do the family thing either and would be happy to come to you. You could all do something totally different this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Make up your own rules and create your own traditions.
Tip No 11: Have a Day of Pampering
If this is your first time facing the holidays alone and you can’t find any friends to spend it with, decide you are going to give yourself a whole lot of self-indulgent love and care. Treat yourself to some facemasks, bubble baths, scented candles, buy yourself some tantalizing food, your favourite box of chocolates, and plan a day of decadent pampering for me, myself and I. Cook yourself a delicious meal, get a fun movie on, and open that big box of chocolates for dessert! Enjoy!
Tip No 12: Give Yourself Time to Grieve
Any kind of loss is painful, so give yourself time to grieve the loss. Whether it’s the future you’d planned with someone who turned out to be a Narcissist, or the loving family that doesn’t exist, accept your feelings about it. Your feelings are valid and important to acknowledge. Nurture your inner child by sending love to the one who’s hurting inside. Tune into your pain and let it know you hear it, you feel it. Then find a way to release it. Imagine it dissolving out of you and disappearing.
Tip No 13: It’s Not Your Fault