This is the time of year when those twin feelings Excitement and Anxiety show up wreaking havoc with our emotional regulation system. They ramp up with a sugar high of Halloween and glide easily toward the tryptophan over-dose of Thanksgiving. Then they spiral completely out of control as we move through the over-eating, over-spending, over-drinking, over-worrying that characterizes “THE HOLIDAYS”. This time of year is promoted as a time of love, fun, gift-giving and family get–togethers, but as most of us know it is also a time of feuds, fights and financial woes as well as overindulgences of every kind. Furthermore, if there has been a loss in the past 12 months-a death, divorce, job loss or illness- then the struggle to “make merry” takes herculean effort. Still we cling tenaciously to the belief system that if we just do “enough”, we can make the holidays “magical”.

In this particular year, those of us in the Northeast sustained a collective trauma-Sandy the Super Storm. The news is painful and shocking. Breezy Point looks like a war zone, the images of lower Manhattan look apocalyptic, Staten Island is submerged and the Jersey shore line has undergone a change that makes it unidentifiable to those who know it well. Many are homeless and some still do not have power.  Most of us in this region are either directly affected or know someone who is.  And now…now we are supposed to move toward celebration as our friends, family and neighbors are suffering? Really? How do we do that?

Mayor Bloomberg tried. He thought New York could just forge ahead and hold the New York Marathon. In the face of public outrage, he canceled it. I get it- it was his attempt to often diversion, optimism and normalcy and demonstrate resilience and hope. But to forge head would be to deny the reality of this catastrophic event. In the Northeast, as least in the tri-state area, nothing is “normal” and to make believe it is, is to diminish and disregard the great suffering and loss sustained.

In the Twelve Step Tradition, HALT is an acronym that is relatable to us all, especially at times when Excitement and Anxiety run amok. HALT stands for –

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

 Now, as we plunge head long into the season of merriment and mirth, our emotional reserves are already depleted.  Already tempers are flaring from the long lines for gas or the struggle to stay warm without power. HALT is never more necessary than when we are raw, frustrated and exhausted.

It is impossible to deny our personal losses and the collective trauma of this year. Let’s be mindful, in this year of pain and suffering, that sometimes we simply need to HALT until we regain our emotional footing. HALT helps us live our lives without regrets or embarrassment. We need to be mindful to get the rest we need, to eat healthy, connect with loved ones and pay attention to our anger. By frequently taking our emotional pulse, we can get through this holiday season without regrets. The holidays may not be magical, but they don’t have to be monstrous.


© 2012 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice and is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

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  1. D.M. on the 16. Nov, 2012 remarked #

    Very good.Thank you very much

  2. Maryellen on the 21. Nov, 2012 remarked #

    The ability to think like that is awalys a joy to behold

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