By Kevin Fox, MA, Victim Advocate/Crisis Counselor; Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
This past week at Victim Service Center, Alliyah Veilleux, MA, VSC Victim Advocate/Crisis Counselor, and myself held a half-day workshop for current VSC clients focused on surviving the holidays. The workshop was designed to address various stressors and triggers that are quite common around the holiday season. For many, the holidays can be a reminder of past trauma over the holiday season, can lead to events with family members that may be unsupportive or stressful, and for some, it can bring to the surface feelings of loneliness. It was for these, and many other reasons, that we held this surviving the holidays workshop. Our intent was that individuals would foster skills to make this time of year more joyful, while reducing any tension and difficulty this time of year can bring.
Current clients of VSC were invited to attend the free half-day workshop to develop skills for themselves with other clients who may relate to their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. The topics addressed ranged from navigating difficult family members to improving assertiveness skills and boundaries. After hearing feedback from those in attendance, the assertiveness skills were the most helpful and readily applicable topic discussed. If you were unable to attend, I have included some of the skills below to help you cruise through this time, or any time of year. After all, these skills aren’t just for the holiday time, they can come in handy all year-round!
- Saying “No”
Sounds easy, right? Well if it were, we would do it more often. Saying “no” can be hard for so many individuals because doing it makes us feel guilty. This can be especially true when saying “no” to those we care about, or people in power like our boss or supervisor. When people ask us to go out of our way, we have the right to say “no,” without guilt or explanation. If whatever is asked of us is not in our typical work day, violates our boundaries, or puts us in a stressful situation, saying “no” is well within our personal rights. So remember, it’s okay to say “no.”
2. Broken Record and Fogging
These are two tried and true assertiveness skills. Broken record is exactly what it sounds like – repeating the same phrase in order to make your point or achieve your goal. An example would be saying, “I do not want to have this conversation right now,” or “I cannot come into work today, it is supposed to be my day off,” and repeating that until the other person understands. Fogging is a helpful skill utilized when people approach us aggressively. When people are aggressive, they are expecting a combative or equally aggressive response. Fogging dispels that anger and simply admits truth in what is being said without accepting guilt, blame, or acting in anger, which can fog the person acting aggressively and deescalate the situation. For example, if someone says, “There are so many dishes in the sink and you have been home all afternoon without doing anything to help!” fogging can sound like, “You’re right, there are dishes that need to get done.” It can feel like a Jedi mind trick too, which is fun.
3. Positive Inquiry
Just like saying “no,” this skill also sounds easier said than done (but I guess so does everything). Positive Inquiry is simply being able to accept the compliments and generosity of those around us. If you find yourself a more passive person, you may easily deflect the kindness of others because you may not feel like you deserve the praise. This can lead to lower self-esteem and confidence. If someone tells you, “Wow, I really love your outfit!” instead of deflecting the compliment or pushing it away, practice simply accepting it with a, “Thank you!” When we see ourselves as worthy of accepting the kindness of others, it is easier to be kinder to ourselves.
Hopefully these tips and skills can be added to your own repertoire of coping and self-care skills for this holiday season, and beyond. We at VSC wish you the brightest of holidays, and remember, if you don’t want to go to that holiday party or gathering, you don’t have to! It’s your holiday – do what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
If you are every feeling overwhelmed, don’t know where to turn, or are experiencing a flood of emotions you can call VSC’s 24/7/365 crisis helpline at (407) 500-HEAL.
A great article on boundaries for the holidays: https://medium.com/@caitlinfisherauthor/12-ways-to-practice-boundaries-for-the-holidays-96064fbd40cf
Toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is available 24/7 at 1–800–273–TALK (8255)
The Deaf and Hard of Hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889
The Trevor Project (866) 488-7386
The Crisis Text Line is available 24/7. Text “HOME” to 741741
Trans Lifeline 877-565-8860
CLEAR Warm Line 1-800-945-1355.