Back in mid-March when New York began shutting down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many people quickly adjusted to phone, Facetime or Zoom sessions with their therapist. If you were anything like me at the time, I assumed that by the middle of the summer we’d all be back to in-person sessions. Now, as we stare down the final days of summer and uncertainty around work and school schedules, it seems that virtual therapy is here to stay. Many of us have not only adapted to virtual (telehealth) sessions but we have embraced them – despite the drawbacks. After five full months of sessions over Zoom, I’ve come up with some practical tips and suggestions to make the most out of your virtual sessions.
Cooking meals, traveling with (or to) family, shopping and gift-giving, office parties, decorating your home, navigating work, school and family obligations…no wonder the holidays are exhausting! Beyond the challenges and stresses of all of the doing, the holidays can often feel like an emotional version of a fruitcake: a bunch of different stuff baked into something that you either love or hate and have no idea what to do with. Paying attention to and supporting your emotional health and wellbeing is important all year long but can be especially difficult during the holidays. I’m here to tell you: it’s okay to be sad during the holidays.
Many people feel pressure to “put on a happy face” during the holidays because it’s what we think we’re supposed to do. With wall-to-wall Christmas everywhere, it’s easy fall into a trap of thinking that you’re the only one who’s sad, blue, or just not in the spirit. Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one, ended a relationship or struggle with financial pressures, sadness can tell us that we’re missing or need something that is not there. Focus on the why and not the what that you’re feeling reach out for help and support if these emotions get in the way of your day-to-day living.
Similar to my earlier post about dealing with difficult family members, it’s about understanding why you are feeling a certain way. “But getting dumped and being alone and broke at Christmas sucks, that’s why!” you might say. Why is being in a relationship important to you? Why is being alone during the holidays difficult for you? Why is being broke in December different than, say, in March?
By focusing on your needs rather than how much of an asshole your ex is for dumping you at Thanksgiving (which, to be fair is pretty high on the Asshole Registry), you might discover that you want a partner who shares your passion for rescue kittens and that the way you were taught to express gratitude and love was through giving and receiving presents. You might discover that you’ve been willing to accept emotional disconnection with others because on the surface it looks better than being single and going into debit to buy presents is far less painful than examining your relationship to true gratitude and belonging.
Go ahead and put on that sad Christmas album, scarf down a few gingerbread men and have a good cry. When you’re done, ask yourself, “What are these emotions telling me and why are they important?” So, if on January 5th you’re still feeling stuck and downing cookies over a long cry, reach out for help. Otherwise, it’s time to take down the tree and get back to the gym.
Want another perspective? Check out this article from PsychCentral.
Most of us have experienced that sense of total confusion, deep despair and utter frustration when, suddenly—seemingly out of nowhere—one morning we wake up and realize that our favorite pair of jeans no longer fit. “How did this happen?” we ask ourselves. Once the shock and disbelief wears off, we get angry, blame our spouse for using the high heat cycle on the dryer and consider every possibility for how the jeans magically shrunk. The last possible reason, of course, is that we’ve slacked on exercise, not been watching our diet and gained a few pounds. Eventually, we either decide to move up a size or make some changes in order to get back into those jeans. The reason you might start or return to therapy is basically the same: you’re uncomfortable.
The discomfort I’m talking about is not your everyday “I get annoyed when my spouse doesn’t listen to me” uncomfortable. Just like with unwanted weight gain, we really don’t notice our discomfort until it significantly starts to change the way we act, think and feel. I often tell my clients, “We don’t make changes in our lives until we are sufficiently uncomfortable with the way things are right now.”
For example, you may have managed your anxiety on your own for many years—avoiding certain places and people, distracting yourself with TV and food or perhaps enjoying a few extra glasses of wine when the nerves get particularly bad. Those are all coping skills—regardless of whether they are helpful or harmful. At some point you are going to come to a place where the avoidance, distraction and self-medicating start to negatively impact your relationships, work and life. It is at that point where the coping skills become hurtful (maladaptive) and your life becomes sufficiently uncomfortable. This is the point where change can occur.
Many of you may not have that exact experience and may be wondering, “Is it time for me to go to therapy (again)?” Exploring therapy might be a good idea if you answer yes to some of the following:
Remember, reaching out to a therapist isn’t an automatic commitment for years of therapy. Most therapists are happy to provide an initial consultation so that you can make an informed choice about who you see.
And a note to those of you currently in therapy: if you feel that you and your therapist aren’t “clicking” anymore, talk to him or her! I know it can be tough to have that conversation but we’d rather have that talk than to have you sit through session after session feeling disengaged—or to have you just stop coming all together.
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.