The holiday season brings up emotions for many of us. For some, those emotions are linked to fond memories of time spent with family. Maybe you think of food, gifts or the quality time. Maybe the holidays make you smile with excitement. For others, the holiday season feels dreadful. You are not looking forward to it, you do not have fond memories and your only excitement is the thought of it being over. No matter which reaction you have, this time of the year likely brings out your inner child and depending on what your childhood was like, you may need to take extra care of yourself in the next few months.
Your inner child is the child-like part of you. The vulnerable, innocent part of you that has visceral, automatic, reactions to things that you can’t explain. It is the part of you that requires extra care and consideration. For those of us that have traumatic experiences, our inner child can be a part of us that responds to hurt. It is the part of us that sometimes feel frozen in time, with limited skills to manage challenging situations. It’s the part of you that throws tantrums, does not want to communicate what you need and recoils at the idea of the pain. It’s that part of you that does not know what to do and it seems that your logical brain has shut off. In healing work, the inner child is essential because it is the part of you that requires the most care as you seek to shift behavior patterns.
This time of the year seems to be the most sensitive time for a lot of people. We are inundated with movies, commercials, tv shows and conversations about family. The messaging and pressure of what “should be” is ever present. You “should” have good memories and traditions. You “should” have a place you call “home” and people to see. You “should” be able to give and expect gifts from others. This “should” be the most magical time of the year.
The truth is that most mental health professionals can tell you that this is when we are most on our guard. The pressures of the holiday season, the expectations, the increase in family engagement and pressures of “happiness,” often heighten emotional strain which can cause a decline in mood and functioning for some during this time.
While it is always important to care for yourself, caring for your inner child is essential during this time as many of us feel particularly fragile and vulnerable. Thinking of the part of yourself that needs the most care, may allow you to give credibility to self care and put boundaries in place to protect yourself this holiday season. Additionally, giving yourself the power of agency can reduce trauma responses and involuntary reactions to triggers.
Here are some tips:
Remember, the goal is that you take care of your most vulnerable self by preparing for your needs. Following these steps will allow you to not only connect to that part of yourself, but understand and meet their needs to improve your mood this holiday season.
Melissa Ifill, LCSW