How to Rewire your Mind for a Positive Holiday Season when the Holidays are not-so-happy

This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” It was written and contributed to this post series by David M. Phelan, LPC, creator of Transcend Personal Development, which provides online mental & emotional fitness resources.

To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!

For many of my clients, “the most wonderful time of the year” is anything but wonderful. All around us we see the bright colors of Christmas trees, menorahs, gift-wrap and decorations. The reds, greens and whites help put is in the holiday mood. However, painful memories of childhood celebrations featuring family conflict, abuse or want; notable absences due to death of a loved one, divorce or other misfortune; or simply the stress of meeting unreasonable expectations of the season can all color the
holidays blue.

When the holidays are difficult, we may find ourselves asking painful questions:

  • Why do we have to go through this every year?
  • Why did he (or she) leave me?
  • How am I going to get through this?
  • Why is everyone else so happy?
  • Will this ever end?
  • Why are we spending so much money?


The challenge with this type of question is that no matter how we answer it, we are left feeling miserable. The question itself focuses our thinking in depressing directions. They are “blue” questions and get us “blue” answers.

One powerful strategy to address holiday blues is to change the questions we are asking ourselves. By being intentional about the questions which we allow ourselves to focus upon, we take control of the direction of our thinking and of our emotional state.

Examples of empowering questions for the Holiday Season include:

  • What do I want the holidays to be about?
  • Who can I connect with this season?
  • What new tradition can be created to move the Holidays in the direction I want them go?
  • If I could accomplish one thing during this season that would make a difference in my life or someone else’s life, what would it be?
  • What could I do that would be fun or would make the activities I am going to do more enjoyable?
  • What can I learn from the situation I am in?


If you aren’t sure if the question you are asking is an empowering question, just test it. How does focusing on that question make you feel? If it doesn’t change the way you feel or if it evokes another distressing feeling, just change it. Keep changing it until you find one that works for you.

Often when I make the suggestion of changing the questions being asked, it is met with initial resistance, so don’t be surprised if something internal growls at the idea at first. If so, just recognize the resistance without trying to change it. Just sit with it. When you come back to it later, you may find that the internal response is different.

Keep in mind questions that work for other people are not nearly as important as findingthe questions that will work for yo


My name is Nicole, and I’m very happy that you decided to stop by and visit my blog! I write about mental health, and I post the occasional product review. I’m most passionate about writing, mental health advocacy, and gaming. My husband and I live in the South with our five tabby cats and two parakeets. If you ever want to connect with me, please don’t hesitate to visit my Contact page.

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  1. November 15, 2018 / 10:15 AM

    This is helpful suggestion. I linger in unhelpful questions a lot leading up to the holidays. I’ll try asking myself some empowering ones instead!

  2. Kim
    November 22, 2018 / 1:47 PM

    My mind is full of unhelpful questions throughout December. Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll try and turn them into more empowering ones this year.

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