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6 DBT Skills to Nurture Your Mental Health During the Holiday Rush

Originally posted November 27, 2018.

6 DBT Skills to Nurture Your Mental Health During the Holiday Rush

Lots of us get flustered during the busy holiday season. And, if you’re already coping with a mental health challenges such as grief, depression, anxiety, PTSD or bipolar disorder, keeping up with healthy lifestyle choices will absolutely support your mental health. When I started thinking about cooking for Thanksgiving, although I love my family, I started to feel really irritable. I just really didn’t feel like doing all the shopping and cooking. I am involved in some writing projects and other work I’d really like to accomplish. Ok. What should I do about these feelings of time crunch and irritability that are coming up for me?

Follow along. Maybe these ideas will help you as well.

1. DBT: Turning the Mind: Deciding to Accept I Could Do Something About How I Felt

The first thing I did was turn my mind away from the idea that I couldn’t do anything about how I felt. I made a choice to decide. I made a choice. A choice to decide to realize I could accept I had running thoughts and feelings and that I could do something about this.

In DBT parlance, this internalized effort is called turning the mind. I turned my mind away from the squirrel-like running thoughts and towards accepting and figuring out how to do something about it.

I decided to accept that I felt irritable, decided to not be totally overwhelmed and then decided to do something about it. My plan is to take stock of the situation and see what I can do to lower my stress level. So what’s next?

2. DBT Wise Mind: Reduce the cacophony of distraction.

I took a moment, and using the DBT skill of Wise Mind, I decided to pare down my schedule to an enjoyable dull roar. Wise Mind is making decisions from a blend of emotion and logic. I needed to look at how my emotions were lying to me and getting me all worked up, and then I made a list of what I really wanted to do this holiday season, personally and professionally.

I came up with:

Personal: I want to recall and preserve what the holiday season is all about to me: love, companionship and spirituality. The experiences coming up that would support this are: enjoy Thanksgiving with my brother and my family in New Jersey, cut down a live tree with my son and husband, get my hair done, go see Bob Dylan in New York City (I bought tickets for my husband and me for Christmas!), visit my in-laws in Austin, get the house cleaned for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, get holiday cards written out, buy a few meaningful presents, decorate the house, get the dogs groomed so they don’t stink up the house! and plan a meal for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Sounds like along, but these things are actually do-able. Ok – not so bad when I look at it.

Professional: Private Practice: Plan my DBT group in my private practice, write a letter to some local psychiatrists, therapists and clients to market the group. Attend my November and December Somatic Experiencing® supervision group. Website: Write and schedule 4 blog articles. Talk with my web designer about website planning for next year.

As I wrote this list up, I realized I there was nothing else I could add to the professional list in this time period before January 2019! I cannot start the second edition of my book in this short time period! I was planning to do so and my mind was like a squirrel running around a wheel! It was causing alot of stress bucked up for no rational reason. I ‘ll have to put off this major project until after Christmas and then get serious!

Now that I wrote these tasks down and pared it down to reality, the season doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Plus, I took a look at my calendar and I’m going delete the doctors’ appointments I can and move to January (non-urgent, of course).

3. Mindfulness: Practice mindful living in the moment

Mindfulness is everywhere lately. What is mindfulness? To me, it’s slowing down to live in the moment. It’s slowing down to savor the love in my life, the good things in my life. Yes, pausing to see the sky is beautiful, the color of trees is extraordinary this year. Eating more slowly to really taste and appreciate my food, whether it’s my weekly treat of a Starbucks Caramel Brûlée, a lean turkey sandwich or homemade lentil-potato-kale soup. Yum. Slow down and love your life.

4. Interpersonal effectiveness: Hold the politics. Enjoy your friends and relatives. It’s later than you think.

To be socially skillful at a dinner party, put discussion of stressful political situations on the back burner. i’m finding that most people aren’t interested in changing their minds, so don’t try to get them to do so. Reach out and talk about other topics in social situations. There’s alot of anger being stoked in public life and its not healthy. I agree there is a need for activism. But depoliticizing human relationships is more productive than politicizing everything. Preserving your familial, friendship and community bonds is powerful. I went to a party where the hostess specifically asked us not to discuss politics. Yes, there were lots of other things to talk about and it felt good to be in the company of old friends!

5. Mastery: Choose to feed the white wolf

The grandson asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

Resentments, jealousies and pettiness is normal when you are human! We can let these emotions fester inside of us, or we can choose to commit to developing character. Mastery of our chosen goal requires following through on this commitment every day to master humility, kindness, civility, honesty, and excellence in your work and personal life. Yes, it’s a daily, ongoing effort of choice to feed the white wolf.

6. Practice Lovingkindness and Enjoy!

For all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann

Open your heart to joy and let yourself feel the intentions of the lovingkindness words below.

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.

May you be happy.

May you be well.

May you be safe.

May all living beings live in peace.

Happy Holiday Season.

Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Men.

Last year, I blogged about protecting your mental health during the holiday season here.


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