For some people the December holidays means happiness – spending time with family, having fun or relaxing, socializing, giving and receiving gifts – this special time bringing with it a sense of belonging and togetherness. For others, this period can mean being forced to face those very challenges that brought you to therapy, such as difficulty socializing due to anxiety, poor self image, relationship difficulties, loneliness associated with depression, financial problems related to impulsivity, grief or loss and may other challenges that cause discomfort. It may be even harder to manage all of these feelings now that your therapist is on a break. You may have several feelings about your therapist going on a break, and it is important to discuss this in the therapy. Once this has been processed, and any underlying feelings have been resolved, the question you may have is, Now what?
It may be useful to think of your therapist as a tool, facilitating your process of change. There are many other tools that are easily accessible and available to you, many of which may already have been discussed within the therapeutic process, and should ideally be practiced between therapy sessions anyways.
One of the most useful therapeutic tools is learning to manage your thought processes effectively. What we think about in terms of situations outside of ourselves, as well as what we say to ourselves internally, have a huge impact on our we feel. So often, we believe every thought that pops into our heads, as if they are 100% true, but once we start to examine these thoughts, we may find them to be inaccurate and untrue. Identifying how inaccurate/distorted thought patterns could be influencing your feeling/emotional states, then challenging them is integral to managing your emotional wellbeing. If you are unsure of how to do this, there is a great APP called FEAR TOOLS available for Android and Iphone users.
Speaking to ourselves in ways that are unkind may cause feelings of worthlessness, sadness, anxiety, inadequacy and can even spiral into suicidal thoughts. Negative self talk can be combated by using self compassion, whereby we speak to ourselves gently, kindly, and with compassion – the same way you would speak to someone else who was going through a rough time. Brene Brown is an author who has done years of research on self compassion, her books are worth a read this holiday season.
Regulating our emotional states is another important tool. Often, when feeling overwhelmed, we can start to believe that we will never ‘feel’ any differently, and we can even start to believe that the feeling experienced is a part of our identity. This is absolutely not true. Remember, that ANY emotional state will pass (just like we can’t be happy all the time, we can’t be sad all the time either). Acknowledge the feeling ‘I feel angry’, rather than ‘I am angry’, and try to identify what thoughts/behavior may have contributed to the feeling, then challenge those thoughts.
If you are particularly overwhelmed, you may want to try deep breathing exercises to regulate your physiological state, before you can start managing your thought processes. Taking a few deep breathes will slow your heart rate, and bring about a sense of calm, making it easier to think about the situation more logically. Alternatively, you could use a meditation APP, such as Insight Timer, also available for Android and Iphone users. You can search for a meditation to match your feeling state – anger, anxiety, disappointment – as well as the amount of time available to you, and simply follow the instructions.
If you are using medication to help manage your symptoms, please don’t stop just because you’re on a break from therapy. Your therapist is on a break, but your growth, and emotional wellness shouldn’t stop.
Should you be struggling despite all using all the suggested tools, please reach out to a close friend or family member for help. If you are having suicidal thoughts, ask someone to escort you to the nearest state clinic in your area, or visit one of the clinics below if you have medical aid. Lifeline is an excellent resource if you need to speak to someone, they can be contacted at: 0861 322 322
It may also help to keep a journal, so that you can discuss what went well, and what was difficult to process when your therapist returns. Lastly, use this time to help understand yourself even more, by reading some of the suggested books listed below.
This holidays, commit to nurturing your emotional health despite all the distractions and obstacles around you. May you be safe and may you experience genuine loving kindness towards yourself.
List of clinics:
Summit Clinic, Rondebosch: http://summitclinic.co.za/
Crescent Clinic: http://summitclinic.co.za/
Akeso Clinics: https://www.akeso.co.za/
Life Health Care Vincent Palotti:
Melomed Hospitals: https://www.melomed.co.za/index-m.asp;
DISCLAIMER: The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic diagnosis or treatment. Always seek assistance from a registered psychologist, psychiatrist or other qualified and registered health professionals with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.