Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

Holiday Attunement

Posted: December 04, 2014 by Nani Waddoups

Enjoying the Holidays with Attunement

Imagine an old-school radio with a dial. A certain subtlety was needed to tune in just right to a radio station: a little to the right, a little to the left, until you tuned in just right and got it. In order to have clarity, the dial needed to be adjusted to the frequency of the broadcast.

In very much the same way, we project ourselves out into the world on a certain frequency, and others out there are broadcasting themselves on their own stations. The psychological use of the word “attunement” refers to being able to hone in on the “tune” of another person, and to have others tune into us. Much relational discord, both minor and major, is due to a lack of attunement between people. And much personal distress is due to a lack of attunement with ourselves.

Enter: The Holidays. I am hearing a lot of “Holiday Mis-Attunement Anticipation”: how to manage family members who always seem to push our buttons, what to do about overscheduled calendars, how to avoid last year’s hurt at being given that ever-so-wrong holiday gift…again? One way to enjoy this winter’s festivities is to “dial in” your skills of attunement, starting with yourself.


We can get so busy with the demands of our busy lives, that we often lose track of how we are doing, and find ourselves way out of sorts wondering when it all started to go awry. Making time to tune into your own radio frequency on a daily basis is the way to keep a clear connection to your own broadcast. Whether in meditation, or by journaling, or by simply taking 5 minutes to sit with yourself and check in, dial into yourself and ask the following questions:

  • How does my body feel right now?
  • What is my energy level today?
  • What emotions seem to be bubbling up to the surface?
  • What events of the past day or two seem to be sticking in my consciousness?
  • What feelings or thoughts do I have about myself right now?
  • Where am I on the stressed-to-calm teeter totter?

By taking the time to check in, tune in, and feel and know ourselves in the moment, we can move through our days with awareness, and can project that awareness more clearly to others.

Tuning in to Others

Tuning in to others requires looking outward and dialing into the mood and energy of others we meet. Often we are so absorbed in our own worlds, we forget to tune in to the frequency of others. Example: have you ever been in an ebullient mood, and blown into an encounter happy and jovial, only to discover that your joke has fallen flat because the person that you told it to was too unhappy to hear it? A few second pause to (changing metaphors) take the temperature of an individual, or a room of people, can allow us to tune in and meet people with a bit of awareness of where they are. This improves relationships immeasurably, because people feel seen.

How This Can Help With the Holidays

Family patterns and traditions resist deviation; our calm, poised adult selves can be reduced to angry 8-year olds when our father asks for the 18th Christmas dinner “Why, again, are you a vegetarian?” All of the fallout from too many parties, and spending more than we swore we would on gifts, can be alleviated with a little attunement. Here are some suggestions to tune in to yourself and others during this winter holiday season:

  • Know thyself: take the time to check in with yourself before flying out the door (see questions above!).
  • Take a pause at the beginning of every interaction you can and try to get a read on the person or people you are about to engage with.
  • Take a pause before interacting with people that have a history of pushing your buttons and note your own broadcast frequency – are you broadcasting a shrill frequency in defensive anticipation, or are you tuned in to a more mellow you?
  • Approach your relationships with curiosity: what will I find when I tune into them?
  • Allow for the unexpected: When you tune into someone, be mindful that we look for what we expect. Can you be open to the other broadcasting something new?

I wish your holiday season to be tuned in to just the right frequencies so that you can stay in tune with yourself and your community, and thus enjoy this wintertime with less stress and more joy.

Tags: mood and feelings, relationship and family, anxiety

Nani Waddoups (she/her)

Licensed Professional Counselor

Navigating toward existential meaning, and consideration of conditions at play are the roots of my counseling philosophy and style.

See Profile
Client Status
Depression, Anxiety, Loss or Grief, Relationship / Marriage Issues, Coronavirus/COVID-19