Coping with "Shoulds" Around the Holidays

“I should be happy- it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

“I should be thinner/ more successful/ married with 2 kids.”

“I shouldn’t still be struggling with addiction, an eating disorder, past trauma.”

“I shouldn’t be depressed and/or anxious.”

… I could go on. And these are just a handful of the comments my patients have made THIS week.

If any of these are relatable, or if you can identify another “should” statement in your head, take notice. These are red flags of negative, critical self-talk.

Sometimes people see these statements as being encouraging, or challenging themselves to be better. While I do agree that healthy goals rooted in your values are hugely important and helpful, “should” statements that lead to shame are not. Shame is not beneficial, and does not encourage you in any way. And for the record- neither does comparison, which is what most of these thoughts/ comments are rooted in.

Next time you catch yourself thinking or saying something like this, try reframing it. Ex: “I should be happy.” —> “I’m working to cope with my depression through my values: connecting with friends and family, and being authentic with my community. It takes time, and I’m not the only alone in this.”

Kristen Cairns