It's the morning after your office holiday party, and you're (barely) starting to remember what happened.
Overdoing the alcohol consumption can often lead to unexpected and undesirable situations, especially when said consumption happens around our co-workers and (shudder) our bosses.
Let's say you blacked out, you're missing key parts of the evening or you wake up cringing at the hazy memories of what you did do.
Maybe you professed your love for certain colleagues, ripped down a tinsel garland to wear as a boa (and then later rode it between your legs "Magic Mike" style) or drunk dialed a senior partner because your office bestie dared you to.
The next day, while doing everything you can to alleviate the queasy feeling in your stomach and nurse your hangover, you also have to deal with waves of shame, anxiety and guilt that come up when you remember what you said or did or may have said or done.
I'm a holistic coach who supports successful women who struggle with alcohol to learn mindful drinking and ultimately, to redefine their relationships to alcohol (whether that means cutting back or cutting it out completely, it's totally up to my clients).
Holiday shame is huge, and many of my clients are either still bearing the weight of the ghosts of Christmas parties past, or they are anxious about how things could go wrong this year.
So, this begs the question: How can we lovingly and compassionately handle and ultimately transform these feelings?
This is a time for radical self-acceptance.
Resist the urge to fall into toxic or self-abusive thought patterns about what last night was like or what people think.
Acknowledging mistakes or discomfort about our behavior is potent, and there is value in addressing them directly rather than hiding from them.
This can mean apologizing or discussing words or actions you feel uncomfortable about with the person they affected, if this feels possible for you.
Often, shame paralyzes our ability to show up in this courageous way, which is why it's so powerful and effective to speak up and address it head-on.
Something worth noticing is the addiction your mind has to what it “means” when you engage in a harmful behavior.
The mind almost instantly begins to formulate a story around that behavior, gathering evidence of painful beliefs we carry (loser, unworthy, unlovable, a failure, a fuck up).
These beliefs can feel overwhelming when triggered by shame and guilt.
To the mind, it's never just having a drink or a few too many. You fill in the blanks and tell yourself this is proof you are a failure, this is a pattern you'll never escape, that you don't deserve better, that you are weak and always letting yourself down, that it's just like all the other times this happened, etc.
None of this is actually true.
Try to reframe this as one action, incident or experience without being part of anything bigger.
You are not condemned to repeat painful things just because your mind dredges up the memories of other times, as if it's an inescapable reality.
You are in control and have a choice about this time, about how now looks and feels. Listen carefully for these hurtful thought patterns that disconnect us from our power to change. They do not serve our growth.
Bring your compassion to yourself however you can.
Even repeating simple mantras like, “I create the life I want, I am worthy of love and respect, I am capable and powerful and I can change and evolve easily and happily” will shift your mentality.
Ask for support and feedback from loved ones and trusted friends to come back to the truth of who you choose to be, and see your value reflected in those close to you.
More than anything, be forgiving of yourself. Everything we are doing is actually the best we can do, or we'd do it differently. So, bring forgiveness and open heartedness to yourself.
When we are faced with shame, sadness or any of the other gut-punch feelings that keep us feeling small and bad about ourselves, ask yourself, “What can I do right now to take care of myself?”
Consider these three aspects to self-care that my friend and colleague Dr, Perpetua Neo shared with me.
Dr. Neo is a psychologist and coach who helps high-achieving woman liberate themselves from panic attacks, anxiety and trauma quickly and deeply.
1. Practice mastery.
Try something that makes you feel proud of yourself for achieving, like nailing a new skill, learning a language, trying a new recipe during the holidays or doing something you know you are great at and where you can celebrate your skills.
2. Create order.
A chaotic environment can sometimes equal a chaotic mind. They're reflections of each other.
So, start small, and keep something in your environment organized. This will also give you a sense of achievement.
3. Practice self-love.
Do something to indulge yourself from a place of love. Don't wait for some external form of praise or acceptance.
Loving yourself is the first step in bettering your other relationships, and you need to keep rewarding yourself along the way.
This is always a work in progress, and we need motivation on the way. Self-love doesn't always mean going "screw it" and pigging out on bad stuff or boozing for 24 hours.
For some, it may mean sitting and breathing mindfully for 3 minutes. For others, it's that one luxury chocolate truffle. Find what works for you!
In my coaching work, I have heard many stories of post-office party shame or post-any party shame.
Trust me, I've also dealt with enough of it in my own experience to know how hard this is.
The real damage occurs afterward, when we beat ourselves up instead of bringing even more care and compassion when we feel wounded or sad.
Know you're not alone in this struggle or this reality. Also know you do have the power to change your experience of this holiday season, starting right now.