Last week, I had a conversation with a young woman who shared with me how much she pretty much loathes this time of the year; although she did admit that it wasn't always that way. It's been the past three years when she has pretty much given Thanksgiving through Valentine's Day a symbolic middle finger.
"I just hate not having someone around the holidays," she said with a long Waiting to Exhale-like sigh.
At the risk of sounding like a corny PBS segment, can you guess what my response was? "Girl, you do have somebody—yourself. Problem is, single folks aren't encouraged to see all of the good that can come out of making the holidays be all about them instead of about being in a relationship with someone else."
I get that, between the mistletoe, fireplaces and marriage proposals, not having a boo might feel like a cosmic trick or some triggering b.s., but I promise that if you choose to alter your perspective, just a little bit, Christmas through New Year's doesn't have to be something to sleep right through. It can actually be kinda dope—if you simply choose for it to be.
Shellie, how I am supposed to do that? I'm so glad that you asked, sis.
First, Remember That Singleness ALWAYS Has Its Perks
Have you ever wondered why this time of year seems to be when so many folks are boo'ed up? Yes, a part of it has to do with cuffing season (chiiiiiile), but apparently it's also the time of year when couples get engaged the most. Yep, December is the most popular month for marriage proposals. With that, all of the romantic Christmas flicks that are in heavy rotation, and our relatives asking us, like clockwork, when we're finally gonna bring somebody home—yes, I get it if, deep down, you feel some type of way about being single this time of year.
But every coin has its flip side and if you check out articles like "10 Bona Fide Benefits Of Being Single", "How To Own The Power Of Your Single Season", "If You're Not In Love With Being Single, Ask Yourself These 6 Questions", "It's Okay to Be Single" and "10 Words That'll Make You Totally Rethink The Word 'Single'"—they all just might remind you that singleness has some real perks and pluses too. If those pieces still don't "scratch the itch", ask some of your married aunties to share with you what they miss about their single days.
Trust me, a (healthy) relationship is a beautiful thing, but it also comes with making compromises and sacrifices that we single ladies don't have to even worry about; things that auntie reminisces on in the midst of frying turkeys and getting your uncle yet another sweater that he's never going to wear.
Reconnect—with a Purpose
So, here's a peek into my present private life. About a week ago, on a "fluke" (meaning, I ran into his cousin and we exchanged numbers that way), I reconnected with my first love. Y'all don't have the time and I don't have the energy to get into how deep the saga goes. But long story short, after almost four hours on the phone and a dinner to follow, a table full of married white women got me out of the nostalgia of walking down memory lane with my ex. It wasn't that I wanted to get back with him; that ship has sailed. But we always seem to have an inexplicable connection; one that, if one lady in particular (shout out to Page) didn't say, "If you're not gonna pursue Shellie, what are you doing here?", our chatting probably would've gone on for six months rather than one night. (Thanks Page!)
Moral to the story—there's something about the holiday season that tends to make us more open to taking walks down memory lane and reconnecting with folks. It makes sense; just enter with caution, though. If there is not a real point and purpose to hitting up a blast from the past or even having dinner with a former friend, why are you doing it? Just to have something to do? Yeah, that's not even close to being a good enough reason because your time is way too valuable. Real talk, if you can't find five good reasons for why he/she/they should be a part of your future, leave them as ghosts from Christmas's past. Before you end up being haunted in an Italian restaurant parking lot like I was. SMDH.
Limit Your “Christmastime Chick Flick” Consumption
There are trials; then there are manufactured trials. What's the difference? The first are things that happen to us, sometimes whether we can control it or not. Then there are things that we do to make life more difficult. Buying shoes instead of paying rent on time? That's a manufactured trial. Getting into arguments with toxic family members? That's a manufactured trial. And spending hours of your time off crying while watching chick flicks and screaming out "Why God why?" and "When God when?"—that's a manufactured trial too.
If you know that you are triggered by the romance of this time of year, why would you keep hurting your own feelings by surrounding yourself with nothing but reminders that…you are triggered by the romance of this time of the year? Minus the fact that they don't have nearly enough Black folks on their channel (side-eye), I enjoy a Hallmark Christmas movie as much as the next gal. But I'm not gonna watch one every single day. There's more to life—and entertainment—than kissing under the mistletoe. Right about now, those are words to live by. Why not go to a movie, listen to a podcast or read a book instead?
Drink. With Wisdom.
So, according to Alcohol.org, while drinking does have a tendency to make us feel, at least temporarily happy, that's not the only emotion that it causes. It can also make us feel nostalgic, creative, anxious, overwhelmed, surprised, sad and scared (and horny; not sure why the article didn't mention that). You know what all of this boils down too, right? Having a little spiked eggnog or a Grinch drink might seem like a fun and festive thing to do, but if it's gonna result in you drunk dialing a former sex partner or worry one of your friends to death as you're crying non-stop on the phone about how horny you are (I've been there; without the alcohol), maybe you should push the glass back. Or at least not consume a ton of your alcoholic fave. Hot chocolate is delicious too. And if you go that route instead, you can trust that whatever it is you're feeling, it's all you—not the alcohol that's speaking (and acting up) for you.
Hang Around SUPPORTIVE People (Family or Otherwise)
Just yesterday, I was having a premarital counseling session with a newly engaged couple. As the soon-to-be-husband was asking me about what I thought one of the biggest mistakes that married couples make is, I said, "Knowing what their partner's triggers are and then continuing to push them." Not only is it disrespectful, it's an effective way to get your spouse to build up all kinds of ways in order to emotionally protect themselves.
I know you're not married, but where I am going with that is this—something else that can make the holiday season extra trying on your spirit is if you continue to put yourself around toxic energy. You know, people who gaslight you, narcissistic parents, envious and/or opportunistic individuals (whether they are family members or not). I know not all of us have the kind of personality that can leave, 15 minutes into dinner, if someone gets out of line, without giving it a second thought. At the same time, don't volunteer to be a martyr by spending all day long, several days at a time, around individuals who emotionally drain you, harp on your dating or baby status or don't make you feel esteemed as an individual.
People who are supportive are sympathetic, encouraging and helpful. If you're not catching those kinds of vibes, politely dismiss yourself so that you can get around those who are on a totally different vibration level.
Create a “Salute Yourself” Calendar
I'm pretty sure you've got at least a couple of off days coming, right? On one of them, pick up a 2020 calendar and then give it a "salute yourself" theme. What do I mean by that? Salute means "to address with expressions of goodwill, respect, etc." If ANYONE needs to be doing that for you…it's you. Jot down things, every month, that you plan to do that will boost your self-esteem, remind you to be kind to your being and to pamper yourself too.
Then get a big ole' jar. Listen, when it comes to married folks, I encourage them to have sex jars. When it comes to single women, they need to have a pamper one. Every time that you reach a goal, dodge a relational bullet or make a decision that benefits your mind, body and/or spirit (check out "Need To Make A Big Decision Quickly? Do This." and "If You Want To Get To The Root Of Things, Try My One-Word Test"), put some money in the jar. It can be fifty dollars or fifty cents. Then, at the end of the year, spend what you've accumulated on something that's all about spoiling yourself. I'm telling you, I speak from personal experience when I say that, the more you focus on celebrating your singleness, the less you'll be caught up in feeling some type of way about actually being single.
Go to a Hotel for a Night
Back when I was doing a significant amount of touring, the folks I would travel with would get pretty irritated with me. Why? Because while they wanted to take in the sights, I preferred to order room service and chill in my hotel bed. I must admit that while hotel beds are best when shared, I have some very fond memories of kicking it in them alone too.
That's why, I highly recommend that you book a night in one before New Year's. Go to a hotel in your city (or the next one) that you've always been curious about. It will provide a change of scenery, it will make you feel pampered, plus—there's something about lying up in a hotel bed for hours on end that has no guilt attached to it. You can sleep, eat, watch television—then rinse and repeat. Shoot, if you can find a hotel that offers in-room massages and facials, that's even better!
Take Some Sort of Social Media Fast
You're not going to be able to fully embrace all that comes with having some time off work if you are still plugged in to the good, bad and sometimes super-duper ugly of what's happening on the internet. So please take at least 48 hours off to do anything but clap back on Twitter or peep in to see what your ex is up to. There are all kinds of mental and psychological benefits that come from putting your smartphone down. Why not use that time instead to journal (even sex journal), write yourself a love letter or—here's a thought—do absolutely nothing?
One thing about social media is, although things are constantly happening, most of it isn't going anywhere. Like a soap opera (to a certain extent, there's a pun that's totally intended here), you can miss a week, come back and pick back up where you left off. Test that theory by spending some much-needed time away. You might be surprised by how little I exaggerated.
Do What Makes YOU Happy on NYE
Don't let the tube fool you. Although it might look like everyone and their great-grandma is out on New Year's Eve, a survey from a couple of years ago revealed that only about 11 percent of individuals actually party on that night. 45 percent prefer to hang with family, 24 percent stay at home and seven percent do something with their friends. So no, you don't have to feel like you're taking an L if you don't go out to watch some ball drop somewhere or if someone doesn't slob you down at midnight. It is perfectly fine to have sleepover with some other single friends or to even ring in the new year while soaking in your bathtub.
Many people believe that the way you exit one year speaks volumes to how the next year will go. Although I'll not even remotely superstitious, that has been the case for me for the past few years. So, don't call it a night at eight so that you can sleep New Year's Eve away. Instead, plan something that will set the tone for 2020. Then watch how the Universe responds to your effort.
Treat Your Own Damn Self
Do you wish that you were receiving a diamond this Christmas? Buy yourself a piece of jewelry. Are you hot about not being able to go to a romantic resort? Go on a weekend road trip. Wish you were cuddling in bed with someone? Get yourself some new bedding (in the meantime). One of the best things about being single, yes even during this time of year, is that you/we have the awesome pleasure of being our top priority. Short of being a single mom, you can buy for yourself—FIRST. You can do what you want without having to explain yourself (unless you want to). You can totally make this a season of real self-indulgence—unapologetically so.
So, don't dread being single over the holidays—relish in it. Someday you may look back and wish that you had. Don't say a sistah didn't warn you.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Here's How To Know You're At Total Peace With Yourself
What It Means To Find True Self-Love
Sanaa Lathan Wants You To Know She's Her Own Knight In Shining Armor
What Loving Yourself Actually Looks Like
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- What To Do When Single On Valentine's Day - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- How To Spend Christmas Alone, Ideas - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- 15 Ways Single Women Can Enjoy Valentine's Day - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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