It’s the most wonderful time of year…or is it? The truth is, for a lot of people the holidays suck.

The holiday season is one of the hardest times of the year for many of my clients. Pressures on finances and time, dwindling hours of sunlight (read about seasonal affective disorder here), overeating and drinking, and more time spent with family doesn’t always turn out to be festive.

This time of year can also bring up painful reminders or memories from the past, and sometimes all of this leads to sadness, anxiety and even depression.

If your reality doesn’t resemble a Norman Rockwell painting and you think the holidays suck, you’re not alone. Here are three practices for you to try so you can take care of yourself this holiday season – and all year long.

Practice self-compassion.

It might seem counterintuitive, but pushing all the bad feelings away doesn’t make it better. Allow yourself to feel the sadness and loss that gets triggered, and then offer yourself some compassion and self-care. When you notice sadness, anger or fear building, take a moment and try this simple exercise.

Place your hands on your heart or around your body like an embrace. Take a moment to notice the warmth and sensation of your hands and try to soften and relax your body.

Then say the following: “It’s understandable given (insert your history or circumstances) that I’m feeling pain right now. I am going to try to be kind to myself.”

Lastly, take a few moments to imagine that you’re sending yourself love, kindness and comfort through your hands.

Practice gratitude.

We all know the holidays are the perfect time for gratitude, but don’t just give it lip service—see if you can truly cultivate the mindset of gratitude. Even when you’re feeling a sense of loss or disappointment there are things to feel grateful for around you.

Shifting your attention to what’s going well, instead of focusing on what isn’t, is one of the keys to feeling better. At the end of each day take a moment to make a list of three things you feel grateful for. Be as specific as you can possibly be. I wrote a whole post about how to cultivate gratitude that you can read here.

Practice generosity.

The research on this is super clear – the more generous and giving we are the better we feel. But don’t worry, this doesn’t just mean giving money.

Being generous can be offering the frazzled person in line to go ahead of you, or opening the door for the person loaded with packages. If you know a friend who is also having a hard time, send a text or give them a quick call just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Take a moment each morning and set an intention to be giving today.

I hope you’ll give these practices a try and let me know how you feel afterwards. Leave a comment in the section below or on my Facebook page.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday filled with self-compassion, gratitude and generosity!

Mindfully,

Erin

Photo credit: Bigstock