As fall continues into winter, mental health professionals anticipate an increase in depression and anxiety in our communities. Winter is coming: a time when the days get shorter, darker, and colder. Heavier clothing layers come out, and shovels are on hand. We plan for the holiday season: the season that is joyous for some and emotionally challenging for others. Holiday parties hosted by our employers for whom we may or may not be happy working; holiday dinners with relatives or friends who are everything to us, yet feel challenging to be around.
Our beliefs play a big role in how we cope with the holidays and the cold,dark days of winter. Many times we equate “beliefs” with our “morals” but this term also applies to the thoughts and fears that arise after having a positive or negative experience. If you’ve taken a risk and failed, you may believe that failure is a stopping point or a reason to keep trying. If something bad happened when you thought things were going well, you could be waiting for the next “shoe to drop,” or you might find meaning within the negative event. These beliefs, like many others, will be a factor in how you view the holidays, who you will be sharing space with, how you will interact with them, and how the interactions affect you during and afterwards.
If you experience negative consequences based on your beliefs, and find that you are becoming more anxious or depressed during this time of year, there are a few questions to ask yourself that may help you work through this:
- Where did this belief come from? Was it taught to me in childhood or did I develop this belief on my own?
- Is this belief consistently true over time when looking at my collective life experience?
- Does this belief support me and promote mind and body wellness?
Beliefs are often a topic of discussion in the counseling office. When clients know where their beliefs originate, and have determined whether or not they apply in their current life, the burden is often lifted and symptoms of depression and anxiety get better.
If the belief you hold is your own, and it’s consistently true over time, you may come to the conclusion that your choices should change based on a sound belief structure. Decline an invitation, ask a friend to go with you, or create an exit plan that allows you to participate in a way that is safe for you.
If the belief is from childhood and doesn’t always seem to be true, think about how you want to think, and actively change your perspective in order to bring greater life satisfaction. Giving yourself permission to think differently can help you gain confidence in your ability to control your behaviors, motivation, and social environment.
Lynette Spencer is a licensed clinical social worker and co-owner of Action Consulting and Therapy in Geneva, Illinois.