All I want for Christmas is to get through this season with some peace of mind, heart, and body. Is that asking too much? Sometimes I wonder. Even with all the tips, I’ve written about, and the great ones from others that I’ve read, I still find myself caught up in the “shoulds” of the holidays.
Holiday Wish #1. To create a space.
The one thing that really helped me this year comes down to the same thing that helps whenever the stress creeps up.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
These days we often call creating that space being mindful, which is another name for pausing and accepting what is happening now, and even if it’s uncomfortable, breathing through it.
The whole holiday cards thing was stressing me out until I stopped and realized that in the big picture they mattered little. As fun as getting Christmas cards is, I had to admit that for me it was more fun to focus on the small number of people in my inner circle [from 7 Rules For Living Well With Chronic Illness. Rule #2] and send them special hand-written messages of love and gratitude.
The moment I paused and responded with that decision, my head felt lighter, my shoulders less burdened. A few cards did go out with cookies, but there too, I kept the number small and the baking to a rainy afternoon while watching my favorite Christmas movies.
Holiday Wish #2. To give yourself permission to take care of yourself.
Another perennial quote I try to live by:
Choose discomfort over resentment. ~Brené Brown
It can be uncomfortable asking others for “help” when it comes to holiday preparations. Many of us have memories of parents or grandparents who did it all, the cleaning, the decorating, the cooking, the shopping… It’s no wonder we believed in Santa Clause and an army of elves! There are some traditions we do not have to uphold, even if it feels weird to dare to do something differently.
This was the first year my husband and son went to get our Christmas tree without me or my daughter. I needed a time-out after the high stimulation of shopping at Wegmans all morning and my daughter wasn’t home from graduate school yet. Did it feel uncomfortable not going with them for the tree? Yes. But the relief of taking my introvert self to a quiet room for an hour was greater. When they got back, flushed and proud of the tree they selected, I was in a relaxed state of mind, ready to join in on the decorating.
Holiday Wish #3. However the holidays unfold, it will be Good.
We, humans, have a tendency to clearly see what is “wrong” in any given situation. We have a harder time recognizing what is good. Being human, I struggle with this, too. When a loved one’s flight is delayed or dinner turns out sucky or a special gift won’t be delivered until December 26th, it takes some effort to get beyond the immediate disappointment. But the truth is, the loved one is safe where they are, there is plenty of food, even if the Beef Wellington turned out a soggy mess, and the joy of gift giving is just extended by a day. It’s all good. No biggy.
As much as we dread some aspects of the holidays, there is always something for which to be grateful. Remembering this is what gives us the resiliency to not just survive but to find true meaning in our gathering together where we get to share our food, drink, gifts and, most importantly of all, our love.
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.
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