The rosy pictures of family harmony is ever-present in the media during holiday season.
As therapists we were privy to the fact that holidays are stressful and often bring out the worst in family and interpersonal relationships.
Clients who had no family fantasized about what they were missing and clients with families fantasized about how to miss family gatherings.
It’s gratifying to know we were on track with how we approached client holiday stress & strain. The research bears this out:
- It is not helpful to ruminate on what was, what could be, ruminate over and over about the hurt, anger, injustice of it all. Rumination leads to depression and/or anxiety.
- It’s best to tell the “tale” once, focus on what hasn’t worked and find new ways to cope.
Here’s a synopsis of the research and article:
Family Arguments Over The Holidays? Replaying Them in Detail May Be the Best Way to Cope
“Repeated studies have found that people prone to depression can get worse if they excessively dwell or ruminate on a stressful incident such as a quarrel or a loss. But experiments by Exeter University psychologists have found that when individuals practised running emotional incidents through their head, focusing on sensory details and recalling exactly what happened, how it happened, and even where it happened, it helped them respond constructively and stopped them becoming so upset about a future or past stressful experience.”
“Psychologists at the University of Exeter have found that recalling the detail of shouting matches and disagreements, including exactly who said what to whom and how, may not be destructive and prolong the tension, but could help people keep incidents in perspective and stop the triggering of self-doubt and even depression.”
“After training to recall the details of an upsetting incident including the tone of a voice, the words used and how the event happened, people became more resilient and put the upsetting incident into context, stopping a downward spiral into low mood.”
“The same exercise of focusing on the sensory details of sad experiences and asking “How did it happen?” “How can I do something about it?” was also found to speed up recovery from doing badly on a test in undergraduates, and to improve interpersonal problem solving, such as finding a way to make up with your partner after an argument, in people who were currently or formerly depressed.”
“For people experiencing depression learning to focus on stressful incidents and to re-imagine them in full technicolour asking themselves ‘What is unique about this situation?’ ‘ How did it happen?’ – instead of ‘Why did it happen to me? had an a ‘significant’ impact on helping to alleviate mental ill health.”
Then again, one way to avoid all the holiday tension is to eat out or . . . leave town.
Read the full article: