The holidays are stressful. Schedules and to-do lists are packed, we see people we don’t often see (like your cousin’s father-in-law’s nephew), and there’s pressure to make everything magical for everyone. And while there are plenty of things vying for our mental and emotional attention, toxic thoughts don’t need to be one of them.
What do I mean by “toxic”? These are distorted ways of perceiving reality. Let’s look at some holiday hypotheticals, shall we?
Mind reading: He didn’t say anything about my gift, so he probably hates it.
Fortune telling: Last year, the conversation got a bit tense. Things will probably be worse this year.
All-or-nothing thinking: My Thanksgiving turkey is a little dry (not perfect), so my dinner party has failed.
Labeling: I forgot Grandma’s gift, I’m such a spaz. Or, Look at little Charlie crying over ____, he’s so spoiled.
Shoulds/Musts: I must get my Christmas cards early this year. Or, He should watch what he says so I don’t explode on him.
Emotional reasoning: I feel overwhelmed so there must be something wrong with me.
Stopping toxic thoughts in their tracks
For some of us, this kind of toxic self-talk and distorted thinking is so ingrained we can barely recognize it as such. It took me more than a year of learning to spot toxic thoughts with my counselor, and I am still doing the hard work of handling them when they arise.