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Treating Post-Holiday Let-Down & Depression
Depression continuing education MFT CEUs

Section 6
Track #6 - 7 Key Steps to Monitoring Triggers

CEU Question 6 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Depression
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed how to begin experiencing an increased sense of difference between heart or core self and your ego or reactive thoughts. You were provided with the "Need to be Right" exercise.

On this track we will discuss various ways that holiday triggers can become recurring times of anguish and how to recognize patterns of some of your negative habits.

One of the problems with holidays is in the area of expectations. Do you agree? Oftentimes you have positive expectations and things just don't work out the way you had planned in your mind. Or sometimes you may have negative expectations which turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

Think of an example of an upcoming situation you have already labeled as one that is going to be negative?

Self-Styled Hell
One of the biggest stressors during the holiday season is our obligatory contact with other people - holiday parties or get-togethers with friends or relatives. Is there anything about the way you are at these kind of gatherings that you would like to change? Is there anything about the behavior or attitudes to your friends at these gathers that you would like to change?

As long as you are preoccupied with what others do or don't do you are locked in a sort of self-styled hell. Why do I say a self-styled hell? Think back to the upside down smile your child had on his or her face when... the ice cream you bought to go with the pumpkin pie wasn't Ben and Jerry's, their favorite. Or think about Uncle Bill that insists on smoking in your house; the relative that drank too much, showed up late or didn't come at all and on and on and on. Yet the instant your awareness returns to yourself, you cannot help realize that you are free to feel the way you wish.

Do you see how this is an accurate statement of cause and effect? Let me repeat that sentence. The instant your awareness returns to yourself you cannot help realize that you are free to feel the way you wish as mentioned earlier. However for me and perhaps for you this awareness of my ability to change my feelings needs to transform from a mere description into ability to accomplish this into actual actions. Do you agree?

If you continue the same reactions towards these people and holiday triggers still stay intact, and the world that you have always had, you will remain its victim. Your chronic feelings of discontent may merely deepen. You do not have to change your reactions immediately. That may be the second step but it is not the first. Instead, you must continue to notice them. Your initial reactions use the past as a guide.

Therefore, you get what you've always gotten. Would you like to change? You certainly cannot change others around you. Your life reflects this decision. Rather than blindly reacting to your daughter, Uncle Bill, the relative or clerk in the store it is possible to catch your reaction, evaluate it, and create a moment of stillness or a pause, so to speak as mentioned on a previous track.

The Battlefield of Your Judgements
Your ability to decide is merely as simple as your ability to give attention. Whether you realize it or not at the time you have chosen to look at whatever "has your attention" and have decided to turn away from its opposite. The negative trigger regarding your anger or whatever the negative emotion happens to be towards your daughter, Uncle, relative, clerk is always the same: a judgment. When your mind stops judging another it assumes a more neutral function of calm, non-judgment, and, to use a technical term, lack of cognitive or thought distortions.

Every experience is preceded by a decision. Do you agree? Letting your day or your holiday season dictate your mood is your decision. Deciding to have the kind of day you want will not give you special powers and advantages over those who do not yet know enough to decide. And the kind of choice I am speaking of will never call for you to wring from other people their compliance by nagging or out reasoning them. By consciously choosing to be happy you leave the battlefield altogether. The battlefield? Yes, the battlefield of your judgments.

7-Step "Morning Attitude Log" Technique
Try this exercise. When the holiday triggers started to creep in and you are feeling the "holiday blues" begin to take hold of your self-talk, by making a "Morning Attitude Log".

Step 1: Write down all that you can remember regarding what you do physically (not mentally) just after you awake. Put these in the order they usually occur. Do you first lie in bed a minute or two with your eyes closed and "think" or do you jump up immediately? Do you yawn and stretch? Then go to the bathroom? Once in the bathroom do you first look in the mirror? Weigh?
Step 2: For the next two or three mornings watch your behavior carefully and add anything you left out in your list above. Do not as yet catalog mental activity.
Step 3: Beginning the first morning after, have your notebook beside your bed and start recording the ideas that accompany each separate physical activity.
Continue this every morning until you believe you have thoroughly identified your usual mental patterns regarding your first twenty minutes' activity.
Step 4: Once you feel complete as to how you begin your day, you are now ready to change it, should you feel a change is needed. Unless you take time to first see the tone you usually set, and how you set it, you will know of no real reason for correcting it, and although you may make some efforts at beginning your mornings differently, these will be halfhearted and will eventually be discarded.
Step 5: Just before lying down to sleep, formulate your purpose for the next day.
Step 6: When you begin to wake, immediately start repeating your purpose (or some phrase or two from it) over and over in your mind. The night before you might memorize what these words will be and in the morning let them come from your heart.
Step 7: After your period of repetition, sit up and begin building your determination to follow your purpose throughout the day. Although this need take only a few moments, do not start your usual activities until you know that your purpose is clearly set and that you are sure it is this you want above all else

Is setting a purpose the night before something you might consider to change some self defeating mental triggers that are set into action when you wake?

On this track, we have discussed various ways that holiday triggers can become recurring times of anguish and how to recognize patterns of these negative habits. Also, we included a "Morning Attitude Log" exercise to address these holiday triggers.

The next track will discuss how to deal with a negative thoughts: by avoiding self-criticism; by eliminating unnecessary mental stimuli; and by releasing the burden of small, useless battles.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bardeen, J. R., & Fergus, T. A. (2020). Emotion regulation self-efficacy mediates the relation between happiness emotion goals and depressive symptoms: A cross-lagged panel design. Emotion, 20(5), 910–915. 

Fried, E. I., van Borkulo, C. D., Epskamp, S., Schoevers, R. A., Tuerlinckx, F., & Borsboom, D. (2016). Measuring depression over time . . . Or not? Lack of unidimensionality and longitudinal measurement invariance in four common rating scales of depression. Psychological Assessment, 28(11), 1354–1367.

Holmes, A. J., & Pizzagalli, D. A. (2007). Task feedback effects on conflict monitoring and executive control: Relationship to subclinical measures of depression. Emotion, 7(1), 68–76.

Rappaport, L. M., Moskowitz, D. S., & D'Antono, B. (2017). Depression symptoms moderate the association between emotion and communal behavior. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(3), 269–279. 

von Hecker, U., & Meiser, T. (2005). Defocused Attention in Depressed Mood: Evidence From Source Monitoring. Emotion, 5(4), 456–463. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 6
What do you create as long as you are preoccupied with what others do or don't do? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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