Transformation happens in a series of small, positive steps done with intention and discipline.
In my workshops and in private sessions, my clients and I spend a lot of time talking about being true to you when it comes to demands on your time and emotional resources.
What you say “yes” to can affect how you experience life. This is so true for this time of year with all of the invitations and required appearances. It is so important to say “yes” to the important, life-giving requests that you can reasonably accommodate. Conversely, it is also important to say “no” to those things that you find draining or downright painful.
It is critical to listen to your inner voice, pray about what to agree to and what to decline. Being a martyr, trying to do everything for everybody, might only make you mean not merry. Trust me; you deserve to enjoy the holidays just as much as anyone else does.
Here are some tips for getting through the holidays peacefully.
- Schedule pockets of quiet time and self-care. Put them on your calendar so you don’t forget, and do not change them. When someone asks you to do something during your scheduled self-care time, it is fine to say “I have something else scheduled at that time.”
- Say “yes” to only the things that you can manage to do. Having to back out later will make you feel guilty and like you let people down.
- Be okay with “good.” Killing yourself trying to make things perfect will wear you down and keep you tired and frustrated. Everything does not have to be perfect to be good.
- Adjust your sense of priority. Consider the “must haves” versus the “nice to haves.” Be honest and pare your lists down accordingly.
- Take time to remember the meaning of the season. This season is about God’s amazing love and spreading joy. Don’t let the meaning be hijacked.
- Cherish the time spent with those who bring you life and joy. Get together with your inner circle just to have fun and de-stress.
- Choose fun over duty where you can. Fun will refresh your mind and lighten your heart.
- Remember to laugh! Some of the best stories to be handed down will be those times when things went awry and you managed to laugh rather than get upset.
This is a special time of year. Be sure to make great memories, be kind to those around you, and take time to be awestruck in the simple things.
May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.
~Ada V. Hendricks
This time of year can be fraught with anxiety even in the best families and friendship circles. At worst, the season can bring on anxiety, depression, and angry interpersonal exchanges.
Here are a few of my tips for sidestepping situations that might cause the holidays to be less than happy.
- Forget all of the sappy, perfectly orchestrated commercials you see. Ads and commercials with pictures showing smiling, happy families with a perfectly cooked meal, and no crazy Aunt Harriet or Grumpy Grandma make us feel as if we are somehow doing it wrong. Those are pictures are idealized and don’t usually represent anything like real life.
- Adjust your expectations. The holidays will not magically transform your normally strained relationships into peaceful places of perfection. Be present in the moment as it is, not as you wish it would be.
- Set boundaries and limit time with those you find most draining or anxiety producing. Where possible, set a limit for the amount of time you will be at a particular place if you know that time will not be pleasant. If you can do so, skip that holiday stop.
- Remember: “No.” is a complete sentence. You have the right to say it, mean it, and not explain it.
- Participate willingly, rather than out of duty or obligation. This simple attitude shift often makes it so much easier to deal with difficult situations. For example, volunteer to set do the cleanup rather than be asked (commanded?) to do so. It is easier to give willingly than do something with a really bad attitude seething the whole time.
- Breathe and pace yourself. It will be January soon, and you will have survived 2016.
- Remember self-care. Take time to do something just for you and your precious heart. You deserve some happy and merry just for you!
Leave a comment with your favorite tip for surviving the holiday season.
In any healing journey there are times when we say “Geez! I thought I was done with that part!” It is frustrating and discouraging. Sometimes, we even think we’re not making any progress at all. I’ve said it and I’ve counseled with people who were in that place, especially in situations related to abuse, broken relationships, and divorce.
That is when it is important to look at the whole journey and be grateful for changes, even small ones. And, we need to be objective when we look. It is so easy to generalize, being caught up in the drama. We say things to ourselves like “I’m never going to get any better!” or “My life will always suck!” Generalities like these just keep us stuck; they snuff out hope, and keep us from moving forward.
Reading over one of my journal entries from June 2012 reminded me of HOPE. I wrote it after a HUGE breakthrough, one where the answer to a question that had plagued me for years was finally able to be seen. In the months immediately before the breakthrough I had been in deep despair, sure that I was a standstill in healing and would never be able to go any further. Once the breakthrough happened, I was able to see things differently.
Let me share the journal entry with you:
Healing and renewal are the words that are big in life right now, and gratitude.
I feel as though I have been reborn, [with all of the counseling work and prayer] and reimaging the child in the crib being rescued, cleaned and comforted by Christ.
I am constantly reminding myself that the lies that ______ told me are just that, lies. God considers me lovely; he has invested much in bringing me to this point in ministry and will do even more as I answer this call.
I am beginning to see Christ as the gentle one who picked up this soiled, fetid, wailing, inconsolable baby, soothed her first, then cleaned her up and presented her to the angels saying: "This is my daughter, isn't she beautiful? This is MY girl!" And the angels agreed, and God said that I would do great things in his name. He calls me lovely, and takes care of all of my needs.
Truth be told, there were many more days of progress and regress, ups and downs that year. My sporadic journaling bears witness to both the abyss of despair and the apex of joy. But, this entry was a reminder that being down, depressed, and hopeless does not mean that we stay that way. The important thing is to keep moving forward.
As one of my friends says “We may be walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but we are not pitching a tent.”
Every healing story is filled with growth and momentum, and setbacks. And, it can bring about beauty you never thought possible. It involves grit, sweat, and lots of work. Every bit of it will be worth it. Every. Bit.
Let's walk together on this path, friends. I see you. I hear you. We can enjoy the company, step by step.
“ Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.” Psalm 23: 4 (MSG)
I have learned again and again that God wastes NOTHING of the experiences in our lives. I hate it when people say "Everything happens for a reason!" but I have come to understand that even the vilest things that happened to me have been used by God to help other people find some hope. I have found hope in the stories of others, thinking "If God can do that for them, surely he can do it for me." It is interesting that the most shameful parts of our lives have the potential to shine the brightest light on what God is able to do.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't always able to see the value in the bad experiences in my life, but as I have shared that God can bring healing out of the deepest scars, I am seeing this truth more and more. . It has taken time and healing to get to this point, and is it not perfect, but it is a good point to be at most days.
There is something amazing about looking in the eyes of someone who has heard the achingly painful, teary-eyed, snotty nosed version of my story, and hearing them say "You, too? I thought I was the only one, and I have been so ashamed!" It is in those moments that my worry about oversharing fades away. Instead, I am reminded that it is in being transparent, vulnerable, and authentic that God's story is revealed.
The stories of the men and women in the Bible are more than filler. They point us to the very character of God. They remind us that he chose drunks, whores, philanderers, and cheats to star in his story along with his blameless, perfect Son. Those lives, the people that we might dismiss as not being able to be of use to a holy God, are the very ones he chose, the ones we refer to all the time. Their lives are the tales that give us hope, even though they went through much suffering.
And so it is with us, even though we may think that we are not worth anything and that our pasts or presents are too shameful, God sees his children, loves us, and when we are able to do it, entrusts us to tell the stories of the fact that he is in the redemption business.
But it is for this reason I was given mercy: by displaying His perfect patience in me, the very worst of all sinners, Jesus the Anointed could show that patience to all who would believe in Him and gain eternal life. 1 Tim 1:16 (The Voice)
This post was originally posted on 7/29/13 on my old site - Hope At The Center.