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Recovery blog

Tips on Thriving This Holiday Season

By: Kaitlin Burns, LGPC, NCC, Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Bethesda

Posted on December 09, 2019


For many of our patients and alumni, the holidays can be an incredibly challenging time of year. Not only is there an emphasis on food during many of these holidays, but also complicated family dynamics, reminders of trauma, and grief and loss. Those can often lead to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Here are some tips to tolerating these (and other!) emotions during the holiday season:

1. Make a list ahead of time of who your supports are. Different people offer different kinds of support, so know who to go to for which need. Reach out to these people ahead of time and let them know how they can support you during the holidays. It's okay if you don't know what you need, just make sure you tell them that!

2. Acknowledge the aspects of the holiday season that will be difficult for you and remind yourself of how you have handled these challenges in the past. Maybe last year, you called a friend when you needed extra support after Thanksgiving. Maybe you were in treatment and needed to hand in ARCs to your therapist, which ended up actually helping you realize what emotions were coming up. You are a strong and resilient person, so let's think about how you've approached these situations before and use those tools and supports again.

3. Utilize mindfulness skills to anchor in the moment. Most people usually have one or two "go-to" mindfulness skills that work best for them, so instead of getting stuck in thinking traps during a holiday dinner, pick a skill that works for you to refocus on the present.

4. Talk to your therapist! Whether you're in treatment at Renfrew or working with your outpatient team, be honest about the difficulties that lay ahead so they can help you plan for how to handle those situations. You don't have to do this alone, and your therapist can provide not only support, but also an extra layer of accountability as well.

5. Even if you slip up, you've still gained an experience you can learn from and use toward your recovery. Remind yourself you CAN do hard things, including approaching uncomfortable situations and emotions during the holiday season. Plus, you're not alone….

6. Check with your closest site to see when their holiday alumni event will be and connect with others who are going through something similar to you!




Kaitlin Burns, LGPC, NCC, is a Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Bethesda. She has been with The Renfrew Center for over a year, , first as an intern during her Master's program and now as a Primary Therapist. She completed her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in May from George Washington University in DC and is originally from Boston. She's an avid Patriots fan and likes to spend her free time enjoying all that the DC Metro Area has to offer.

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