Here come the holidays, the time of year we gather with family and friends to observe our most-cherished traditions: sharing meals, honoring our guiding spirits, exchanging gifts, watching sports and remarking how fast time flies.

It’s supposed to be a happy or at least comforting season, but for people going through a breakup or divorce, the approaching holidays can evoke agonizing dread.

All our familiar activities can suddenly feel strange. All our favorite people can suddenly feel like a scrutinizing audience. And the focal point of your happiness, the person you’ve loved for years — perhaps the other parent to your beautiful children — is suddenly the source of pain.

If this is your situation, this holiday season will likely be spent dealing with the unfamiliar. You may begin to feel fear, which masks itself as many negative emotions. Some of them are insecurity, unworthiness, depression and anger. A divorce or breakup during the holidays can leave you feeling vulnerable and isolated.

Although this is where you may be, and could be for longer than you like, it isn’t where you have to stay. You have the ability to change your perspective and focus on the meaning of the celebrated day: To give thanks.

You can seize the day, carpe diem!

The change begins by ask yourself how you might regain emotional control, then by making the decision to empower yourself. Here are some strategies:

1.) Make a gratitude list. Creating a list of things you are grateful for helps you redirect your focus from the negative to the positive things in your life. The process uplifts you, reminds you of how fortunate you truly are. As positive thoughts build upon each other, you’ll feel the shift in your mood. Research by the Mayo Clinic reveals that positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health improvements, including longer life spans, less stress, less depression, better stress management and coping skills, increased physical well-being, and over all better psychological health.

2.) If you are without your children on this holiday, appreciate the next time you have planned to see them. Look forward to their return. Meanwhile, do something for yourself that you have not had time to do.

3.) Create new traditions with your children. Fun and imaginative things that pump energy into your new life are a good idea. How about making a nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner for the day after, including everyone in the preparation? Bake cookies. Watch a fun movie. Make good memories.

4.) Take time to relax and plan ways to enjoy your time alone.

Now that you have empowered yourself to get past the fear of the unknown continue, to utilize your empowerment to help you through this difficult time of divorce or separation. Keep your focus on gratitude, as those are the thoughts that make you feel inspired and uplifted. Your children will benefit by your positive emotions and good things will manifest in your life going forward.

Dr. Lateefah Wielenga works as a life and relationship coach and is also an ordained minister. She has a private practice in Long Beach. Call 895-0516 or visit www.thecounselingkitchen.com for details.

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