The holidays are among us and coming on full swing! I don't know about you, but it seems like every year the holidays come on stronger and faster than the previous year! Maybe it's because as my kids get older, there are more and more things to get involved in...which means more and more is added to the to-do list.
Recently my husband asked me to sign us up for a Spartan race happening in April 2018...April of two thousand and eighteen?! Let me think...I still have about 5 things to RSVP for in the next 2 weeks! Forget about anything happening several months from now! Needless to say, I kindly asked him to sign us up, or it wasn't happening.
Now I'm no scrooge...I love the get togethers, the food, the decorations, being with family and friends, celebrating our Savior, giving more to people in need, and more...but let's face it...it can definitely be an overwhelming time! So many parties, school functions, events...you name it! It can get a little crazy!
As some of us are simply dealing with the chaos of the season, there are others who on top of that, are dealing with heartache and loss. This may be the first holiday season you have experienced without a loved one. Perhaps your family is not the happy family that is almost always portrayed in hallmark movies. Perhaps it seems like your friends all have their lives put together so wonderfully (the perfect decorations, the perfect Christmas card picture, the perfect parents and in-laws, etc), and then there's your life...less than perfect and full of pain.
In no way do I want to minimize your pain and the difficulty of the season...because it is real and it is hard. But, I wanted to share perhaps a few things that may help you get through the season and hopefully find JOY in it!!
1. Resist the Temptation to Compare Your Life to Theirs
Does anyone find that the more you think about what other's have or seemingly have, the less grateful you become of what you do have...and the more miserable you feel? Do you need to stay off social media? If looking at social media creates feelings of depression, sadness, anger, or bitterness...it's time to unplug! I guarantee that the picture of perfection that they posted on social media is NOT their real life. I guarantee that there is something in their life that is challenging them as well. Everyone has something, though it may not be the same thing. They may be having family issues. They may be suffering from depression but hide it very well. This may not be the first season without a loved one, but they are still grieving their loss. They may have all smiled perfectly for the Christmas card picture, but what happened before and after that one shot was certainly not pretty.
I'm not saying that your pain is the same as others or that your pain isn't worse, as it may be. But, does comparing your life to their make you feel better or worse? If the answer is worse, then don't bother with it.
2. Focus on the Good
In counseling people, we talk quite a bit about how what we think about is what we think about....in other words, we literally train our brain to think a certain way so that it becomes an automatic way of thinking. I work with clients on how to retrain their thoughts, but it can be very challenging given the automatic nature of them. However, it CAN be done with persistence and time. With that said, what would it be like to wake up everyday and focus on the 5 best things of your life right now? My holiday season this year is not ideal for me either. However, I still know that I have so much to be grateful for. To practice what I preach, here are things that I am choosing to focus on this season. I'm thankful that my children are healthy. I'm thankful for my job!! I'm thankful for my animals that bring me so much joy and love. I'm thankful for friends and family that reach out and care for me during this time. I'm thankful that God is choosing to grow my faith during this time, and that shows He cares. How do I feel when I choose to dwell on what I have instead of what I don't have? I feel joy. As hard as it may be for you, it's YOUR turn? Make it a daily habit for the next month and just SEE how it changes the way you feel, like magic!
3. Stay Connected!
I cannot express this enough. There is nothing worse (in my opinion) than boredom and/or loneliness...when we feel we lack purpose or that we are alone in this world. You may not have a huge group of friends, and that is OK! But, you definitely need at least 1 or 2 people whom you can connect with on a personal level. If you don't have someone, you can always reach out to a pastor or counselor (me!). But, staying connected with others during this time is a MUST to get you through. Connect with your supports that can lift you up, encourage you, challenge you, distract you from your thoughts, and simply be there. We were not meant to live alone or in isolation.
4. Don't Forget about YOU!
With the demands and pulls of everything going on, it can be easy to forget about ourselves...you know, good old self-care. However, what happens when we do? We feel even less prepared for everything going on. While it may be tempting to gorge on cookies and holiday treats, remember how you usually feel afterward and resist the urge! While it may be easy to put exercising on hold because, hey, you don't have time...remember that you really don't have time NOT to! Remember how you feel when you don't exercise and how you feel when you do...it's worth it! While it may be difficult not to sign up for every RSVP request that comes your way, remember that it is OKAY to click "NO" and simply stay home and watch a hallmark movie (or a sports game, whatever floats your boat). We are no good to anyone when we are stretched too thin and ourselves, our significant others, and our children are usually the ones who suffer for it... Remind yourself that it's simply not worth it!
I hope that during this season you can find the JOY that it's meant to bring. It's a season to celebrate the love of God, the love of our friends and family, and the joy of giving. If all the other things that fill the season steal that Joy and love, then it's not worth it!
Happy Holidays everyone!