Coping with loneliness during the holidays.

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When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness. An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

Original Source:

I originally wrote this article for The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness/

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To protect the privacy of individuals, names and identifying details have been changed
.

SARAH

Sarah was a 42-year-old recently divorced woman who was about to face her first holiday season alone. Living in a new town, miles away from friends and family, she was waiting to begin a new job in January. Hours felt like days.

Days felt like months. Sarah had tried everything to fill the void inside. The mistake she made was running away from the one thing that would help get her to the other side: loneliness itself.

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Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature.

There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion:

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This theory of emotion explains why two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different emotional reactions to it.

What matters most is the person’s interpretation of an event, not the event itself. After all, as they say, one person’s glass-half-full is another one’s glass-half-empty.

In Sarah’s situation, she interpreted her physiological response to idle time as loneliness, while another person might label it as much-needed relaxation. Ultimately, Sarah has a choice. One interpretation debilitates; the other empowers.

2. Witness the emotion

Now that Sarah understands the interpretative power she holds over her environmental triggers, the next step is to witness loneliness in a neutral, curious state rather than fighting it at every turn.

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In doing so, Sarah neutralizes the intensity of her emotions, allowing them to flow through her, rather than getting stuck in a repetitive loop of pain.

Here are four simple ways to create space between triggers and responses:

1. Count to 10

2. Take a long deep breath

3. Make three wishes

4. Look up at the sky

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Taken one step further, each time that Sarah experiences a challenging emotion during the holidays, rather than running from it she needs to lean in and ask that emotion, “What are you trying to teach me?”

3. Reframe the emotion

The final step for Sarah is to learn how to reframe the situations that trigger her loneliness, and understand why sometimes she overreacts, while other times she lets go without a second thought.

Solitude is perceived as isolation by one person and freedom by another.

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Reframing exercise:

1. Identify a situation that triggers loneliness.

2. Imagine the best-case scenario: “This situation is temporary.”

3. Look for evidence of the best-case scenario: “The longest I’ve been single is two years.”

4. Describe the worst-case scenario: “I will be alone forever.”

5. Name the benefits of the worst-case scenario: “I am free to do what I want.”

6. Finally, ask for help in reframing triggers, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

Once Sarah learns how to change the story “behind” the story, her instinctive loneliness lessens. And her ability to choose a higher thought improves.

Watch Video Summary

Click Here

JACK

At 55 years of age, Jack was also feeling the pangs of loneliness. His wife of 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

Unexpected was an understatement. They had run in three marathons together and had spent their weekends sampling new vegan restaurants in their local community. Ever since his wife had died, Jack struggled to face the holidays alone.

Jack’s story is as much about him as it is about the family around him. His family and friends’ automatic response was to feel sorry for him, a response that compounded his feelings of disconnectedness and misunderstanding.

Jack did not want people to feel sorry for him. He was a proud man who was ready to move on.

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Get out of your own head

1. Meet with “experienced” widowers

As much as Jack missed his wife, he also missed his ability to connect authentically with friends and family. Having been treated with kid gloves since his wife died, Jack longed to be seen as a victor rather than a victim

As such, I encourage Jack to connect with like-minded individuals who had been through a similar situation: widows and widowers. Specifically, ones who had been on their own for several years.

The benefits are twofold. One, Jack would learn new ways of relating to friends and family. And two, he’d be given the green light to grow and acclimate to his new circumstances.

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2. Connect with others in unexpected, low-pressure ways

The other component missing in Jack’s life was fun. Simple, cheerful, good-time fun. Everything had become so serious since his wife died, with almost every conversation beginning or ending with his wife’s death.

There was no doubt that he missed her with all his heart. But equally, he longed for moments where he could be free of the loneliness and pain.

I recommend that Jack reintroduce sports into his life. Something non-competitive that would get him out of the house on a Wednesday night. Better yet, if it involved people that he had never met, it would allow him to continue his journey of reinvention and rediscovery.

Equally therapeutic for Jack would be joining a cinema group or regular euchre meetup—both would offer him a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

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3. Honour the old, create the new

Finally, I advise Jack to examine the memories and traditions that he wanted to keep alive during the holidays—and, equally, the ones of which he was ready to let go.

Jack took the practice one step further. Declaring December a month of renewal and reinvention, he revived a strength and peace inside that radiated out to his entire family.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Conclusion 

Jack and Sarah have a lot to teach us about loneliness and how important it is to honour the unique ways in which we process adversity.

One size does not fit all. Fellowship and fun were vital for Jack’s growth and recovery, while Sarah needed a more analytical approach to processing difficulty.

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• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Your Turn

1. How do you cope with difficult emotions during the holidays?

2. What strategies do you use to make peace with the heightened pressures of the Christmas season?

3. How do you make “Hallmark Card” traditions your own?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

Repeat after me: It’s ok not to be ok during the holidays. 🎄❤️

CPR: Sustainable Mental Health Habits

Dr. Andrea Dinardo MENTAL HEALTH HABITS

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty
/səˌstānəˈbilədē/
  1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

CPR is a framework for Sustainable Mental Health Habits

CPR includes three simple steps as outlined in the video below :

1. Catch

Catch yourself in the midst (or before) before a stress response escalates by becoming more aware of what triggers you.

2. Pause

Pause and take a 60 second time out when you feel the physical sensations of stress begin to escalate.

3. Repair

Repair the root source of the heightened stress response which is often physiological in nature. Possible unmet needs include: sleep, food, fresh air, exercise.

DrAndreaDinardo.com QUOTE

Supporting Student Mental Health

Requested by

The CPR Presentation  was developed for the St. Clair College Student Sustainability Group as part of their initiative for supporting the health and wellbeing of college staff, faculty, and students.

New Opportunity

This was the first time I’ve been approached to make a video for a third party. And it was so much fun!


December 9, 2019 Update

This post went “live” at St. Clair College at noon today.

KIARA CLEMENT SRC President C.P.R. Writing Journal

KIARA CLEMENT

SRC President and CPR Journal Reflections Author

KIARA CLEMENT SRC President.

Click Here for College Mental Health Resources

Post Traumatic Growth: Can Adversity Be Good for You?

Can Adversity Be Good for You?

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In my latest video from a Positive Psychology Keynote at a Student Success Conference:

You will hear the remarkable stories of teachers, social workers, and principals who suffered greatly through illness, injuries, and difficult pregnancies.

Eventually rising up (with time and support) to greater heights in their current lives.

Hear Their Stories in Video Below:

What is Post Traumatic Growth?

Post traumatic growth (PTG) can be defined as positive personal changes that result from the survivor’s struggle to deal with trauma and its psychological consequences.

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The process of post traumatic growth can lead to 1. improved relationships, 2. more compassion, 3. openness, 4. appreciation for life, 5. spiritual growth, 6. personal strength, and 7. a renewed sense of possibilities in the world.

Original Source: http://www.ptsdassociation.com

Additional Resources

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Reflection Questions

1. Do you believe the benefits of adversity outweigh the negatives?

2.  Which factors hinder an individual’s ability to recover and bounce back?

3. Which factors enhance an individual’s capacity for resilience and post-traumatic growth (PTG)?

4. Is the recovery and resilience for physical health trauma the same or different as mental health adversity? Why or why not?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

5 Simple Stress Relief Techniques

Life is complicated. Stress management shouldn’t be.

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5 Simple Techniques

1. Breathing Space

2. Gratitude

3. Mindfulness

4. Movement

5. Perspective

Repeat Daily. 💙

More Tips → Thriving Under Pressure

IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH with Positive Psychology

The goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings. The goal is to change your response to them.

Instead of thinking of mental health as a burden you must shoulder, imagine it as an opportunity to experience peace and joy.

In the same way that we make time for our physical needs, we must devote equal attention to our psychological needs.

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Where do we begin?

P E R M A Theory of Well-Being

PERMA..

PERMA is a framework for happiness and well-being developed by UPenn professor Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology.

The model contains five key indicators of human flourishing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement.

Original Source:

This blog post first appeared in The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/cultivating-mental-health-daily

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Positive Emotion

Feeling good is an essential part of well-being.

That said, it’s easy to get lost in a spiral of negativity — What’s wrong? Who’s to blame? Why did this happen to me? Leaving little time in the day for appreciation, wonder, and fun.

Which is why it’s essential to schedule good vibe moments into each day.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Begin the day with inspiring quotes on your bathroom mirror.
  2. Create a spa atmosphere for morning coffee with music and candles.
  3. Listen to upbeat music and podcasts on your way to work.
  4. Start conversations with your dreams, not your stressors.
  5. Put a 20-minute daily time limit on blaming and complaining.
  6. Go to bed visualizing three new things you’re grateful for that day.

Joy needs room to breathe.

And so do you.

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Engagement

Remember when you were a kid playing with friends, and before you knew it the street lights came on? If it wasn’t for your mom yelling your name, you would be outside playing all night long. In that moment, you were in a state of flow.

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You were completely engaged in what you were doing, independent of everything around you.

Your mom could have called your name for hours, and you wouldn’t have heard a word.

One hundred percent of your attentional capacity was taken up by the activity right in front of you.

Most likely you still experience a state of flow and engagement, but not as often as you like.

Activities that create a flow state include:

  1. Writing
  2. Dancing
  3. Music
  4. Art
  5. Sports

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Engagement and flow are important for mental health. When you’re completely absorbed by a task, your mind has no capacity left over for distressing thoughts and emotions.

Relationships

Social support is an important buffer for life’s challenges.

That said, not all associations are created equal. Some relationships, unfortunately, lead to a deterioration in mental health.

Which is why CHOICE is an especially powerful tool when it comes to relationships, well-being, and happiness.

Consider the following when you spend time with people:

  1. Do you feel uplifted or drained?
  2. Do you feel listened to or ignored?
  3. Do you feel encouraged or criticized?

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Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.

Meaning

Meaning comes from serving something bigger than ourselves.

Whether it be family, charity, occupation, or community, meaning unites us in a common vision and gives us the will to get through adversity.

Students Are My North Star

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That said, meaning can appear elusive to some, so why not consider one purpose each day.

Begin with a typical workday. Choose one purpose, and do something to give meaning to that purpose.

I’ve listed a few options, as well as an example for each:

  1. Pick one person — thank a custodian for their hard work.
  2. Pick one place — post uplifting notes and quotes on a section of the wall.
  3. Pick one time — declare 3 pm gratitude hour.

 Achievement

Achievement is the final component of the PERMA model, and, in many ways, its foundation. Goals give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction, helping us to know if we are headed in the right direction.

The key is to balance our drive and determination with the right level of difficulty. If we set a goal that’s too easy, we get bored. If it’s too hard, we experience learned helplessness.

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The solution?

Set daily goals that are achievable and tied into your highest dreams.

In Conclusion

Cultivating mental health daily prepares us for the big things in our life. Every little bit counts, everything adds up. Small things on repeat change the world.

PERMA

Video 1 of Blog Post  Click Here
Video 2 of Blog Post  Click Here

 

Hope changes everything.

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H
old

O n

P ain

E nds

During difficult times, I often tell myself “What a difference a day makes.”

This one simple sentence helps me to remember that tomorrow is a brand new day.

Illuminating the possibility that what looks like the end in that dark moment, could in fact be preparing me for a whole new destiny.

This video and blog post were inspired by a very dear friend of mine experiencing unexpected health problems.

And how during treatment she often says that it’s my positivity and upbeat nature that brings her to a higher place.

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My friend knows what’s wrong.
I remind her of all that is right.

”Together we rise.” 🙏☀️

Share with me:

What gives you hope during difficult times?

Video of Blog Post: Click Here

Happiness and Healing in Present Time.

You have the ability to make positive changes in your life.

Right here. Right now.

Don’t wait for “the perfect time” to transform your life.

NOW IS YOUR POWER.

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LOOK AROUND YOU

Notice things like you’re seeing them for the very first time.

Embrace it. Love it. Be it.

Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

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Look UP & Around

Everything You Appreciate 

in this moment 

is your highest self 

reflecting back.

This video and blog post were inspired by a beautiful row of autumn trees that I saw across a parking lot. Reminding me to be still, breathe deeply, and notice every little thing.

Fall is nature on fire.🔥🍁🍂

 Watch Video: Now is Your Power

SAYING NO Are you a feeler or a thinker?

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Do you have a difficult time saying no?

While others in your life say no without a second thought.

Is this confusing and at times upsetting for you?

Are you hard on yourself because of this discrepancy between yourself and others?

You may be interested to discover that Saying No is not a one size fits all.

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Join me in my
virtual psychology classroom as I share one factor that explains why some people have more difficulty saying no and holding boundaries than others — Your Personality.

Feelers vs. Thinkers

Feelers

In this video I describe how individuals who are overly sensitive to the feelings of others (HSPs, Empaths, ENFJs) often focus on the needs of others to the exclusion of themselves.

Video: SAYING NO Are you a feeler or a thinker?

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❤️ Feelers take things more personally than thinkers.

Often causing feelers to say YES on the outside when on the inside their intuition is telling them to SAY NO.

Result = Mixed Messages + Unnecessary Stress

Thinkers

By contrast, individuals who are left brain dominant (thinkers on the Myers Briggs scale) are more straightforward and logical in their response to requests from friends and coworkers.

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Consequently, thinkers do not focus to the same extent on the emotions of “the requesters” in the same way that feelers (eg., ENFJ’s) on the on the Myers Briggs do.

💡 Saying no comes naturally to thinkers.

Thinkers know what they want and use analytics + logic not the emotions of the person in front of them as their guiding force.

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Learning from each other

On the plus side:

Feelers and thinkers make incredible teammates.

At work and in life.

Balance is everything. 🧠 + ❤️

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Additional Information

1. Right Brain versus Left Brain
2. Are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
3. Learn About Myers Briggs Personality Profile
4. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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Let me know in comments below how your personality impacts different areas of your life, including saying No.

Please share techniques you’ve developed for setting boundaries too!

I’d love to know!

Dr. D 📚

One Final Note:

In Addition to Personality and Individual Differences

Situation Also Impacts Our Ability to Say NO + Stand Firm

Video: Saying No is Easier When You Feel Safe

Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

With time, I have come to realize that failure has always been my greatest teacher. Each failure pointed me in a better direction and helped me to develop strength and authenticity, ultimately unveiling who I was and what I was destined to become

F. A. I. L. = First Attempt In Learning

• The failing grade I received on my first exam in graduate school taught me how to ask for support when I needed it most, no matter how shameful I felt or embarrassed I was.

• The end of a long-term relationship taught me how to value my time alone and make tough decisions for myself, no matter how weak I felt or lonesome I was.

• The layoff from a job I loved taught me how to let go, look forward, and trust in something so much bigger than myself, no matter how scared I was or irrelevant I felt.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

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Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Under the right conditions, failure strengthens us, adds to our self-knowledge, and enhances the quality of our lives

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have met my husband John.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be a psychology professor.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have written three textbooks.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be the person I am today.

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again.”

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Source: https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/failure-as-feedback

 Your Turn:

What life lessons has failure taught you?