So, here we are – the holiday season is once again upon us. The rational part of us says, “Everything will be fine, you’ll get it all done in time, no problem.” The emotional part reminds us of how quickly the holiday can ‘sneak up on us’… and how crazy and frantic it feels, in those weeks leading up to it. We try to stay in the moment, be present… stay in the “now”… just breathe. But, when the holiday season kicks into high gear, we feel anything but prepared… and far from present-minded! We’re thinking of a different type of “presents”… like which one to get Uncle Bob, your daughter, and your boss! Not one gift purchased, not one decoration hung, not one cookie baked – it can feel overwhelming.
So now what? Ah… DBT Skills to the rescue!
DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, can be a helpful tool to provide a little less stress, and a few more moments of calm and peace, during the holidays (or, most anytime, actually). DBT is designed to encourage individuals to change patterns of thinking, and regulate emotions and reactive states, in response to specific triggers. DBT also incorporates an aspect of mindfulness, which helps individuals stay focused in each “present” moment… and to recognize how they might be feeling, without judgement.
But, wait… we live in a culture that wants us to keep looking ahead, anticipating, preparing, spending! We live in a culture that instills fear in us that we aren’t keeping up, and we aren’t ready or prepared in all the right ways, with all the right things. We keep reflecting on deficits of the past, and have anticipatory anxiety about the future.
What are some ways to stay in the present and transcend this culture that is compelling us to race ahead and be prepared?
One of the best ways is to “ground” yourself. What is “Grounding?” Well, grounding is a way of referencing your senses to connect with a ‘present’ moment. Anything from observing a biorhythm to a sense of smell… a sound, a taste, a visual stimulus… Commons suggestions include focusing on your breathing, pressing your feet into the floor, rocking gently, getting a sense of connecting to the ground. However, exploring senses can be intricate and you can develop skill in aiming to recognize increasingly deeper ways that you are connected to the present moment.
And, of course, no better way than to use the activities at hand, such as everything we do over the holiday. Try to break down your movements in the activity of gift wrapping… baking… decorating. Allow yourself to be as poetic and profound as you can, in the ways you note the musculoskeletal movements involved in handwriting holiday cards, and the way your emotional center reacts to the words you choose, and the images on the card.
Stay with it as best you can… and, if you lose focus…that’s okay.
Remember, no judgment. Staying present is a developed skill. It does not come naturally. Just gently coach yourself to try to return to the observation… slow down and mindfully move through each moment, with awareness and intention.
If you go on to study DBT, or practice for a while, you will eventually develop what is called a ‘Wise Mind’. The Wise Mind helps us determine what is effective planning… verses what is unnecessary and ineffective worrying. The Wise Mind allows us to develop a mental ‘toggle switch’ that we can use to alter our state. We can go between states of participatory observation, mindfulness… and, well, just riding the general past and future reflections that are part of everyday life.
There are lots of different DBT skills you can use, at any time of year. Drop in for a workshop, or take part in an ongoing group, or get yourself a DBT coach… soon you’ll feel empowered and in control.
This holiday season… Try using DBT skills.
WFC wishes you, your family and friends a joyful, healthy holiday season!