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

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

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

Uplifting Mantras for Uncertain Times.

Life lived backwards makes perfect sense. 

You finally understand WHY the job, the partner, the degree, the house, the friendship, the ______ didn’t work out. 

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BUT what about in the “here and now”?

How do we make the leap of faith during the darkest of days?

MANTRAS mantras mantras. 

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Find a phrase that moves you …

t h r o u g h ..

UP AND OVER…

into a place of trust and belief.

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Respect

The

Process

Breathe and RECEIVE

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Your journey is unfolding in the most magical and mysterious of ways.

Spread Your Wings 🦋

What if I fall … oh my darling … what if you F L Y..”

Related: Optimism Bootcamp Workshop

When you change the way you think about things, the things you think about change.

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How you perceive stress.

Changes everything.

Challenge or opportunity?

Ending or new beginning?

Stumbling block or stepping stone?

Coal or diamonds?

If you can’t change the stress.

Change the way you think about it.

Week 2 at College: Short Video

Words of Encouragement.

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The first thing that goes when we are faced with a stressor of any kind is the memory of all we have overcome in years gone by.

Let this be your daily, weekly, hourly reminder of how wildly capable you are.

Truly. Incredibly. Capable.

We might not be a genius at everything. But we are most definitely a genius at something.

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And if you ever need more than this note to remind you of your strengths, let me know in the comments below.

And I will shine a light on the luminescence that surrounds you.


Fun Activity  

What words resonate with you?

What jumps off the page?

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These are your strengths.✨