Instead of this being the most wonderful time of the year, perhaps it’s really just the MOST time of the year, as a favorite podcaster of mine likes to say. No month insists on cheerfulness more than this one. It’s as if everything has been turned up a few notches. If finances are a struggle, they may feel even more so right now. If you are grieving, the intensity of that experience may be heightened. If you are traveling, anxiety about flights and road conditions may be increased. Even if you are excited about the season, the shopping, cooking, hosting, and special events can feel impossible to manage on top of regular responsibilities. If everything feels like too much and you feel like not enough, I promise you are not alone. Keep these two things in mind as you navigate the next couple of weeks:
- Not everyone is as happy as they seem. Many of us have learned to mask our difficult emotions or to tuck them away. It’s likely that many of your colleagues and friends are also struggling with their own grief, anxiety, and pressure right now, even if their Instagram account is all tinsel, Santa hats, and ginger bread houses.
- Feelings are not good or bad, they just ARE. Pushing yourself to be happier than you actually feel is self-defeating. Emotions are simply data points and when we acknowledge and honor them we have the opportunity to fully process them. When you give yourself permission to show on the outside how you are feeling on the inside, you signal to others that you are in need of support. You might be amazed at how willing others are to care for you and how well they do so. Give yourself the gift of showing up as YOU this season, knowing that seasons always change. As my therapist has reminded me more than once, Feelings aren’t facts and feelings aren’t final.
I invite you to try this simple self-compassion exercise created by Kristen Neff, Ph.D and professor at UT:
- Bring to mind something difficult in your life. Become aware of the emotional discomfort in your body and, while deepening and slowing your breathing, say something like this to yourself: This is painful; this is a moment of suffering; this really hurts.
- Continuing to take slow, calming breaths, say to yourself: Suffering is part of life; I’m not alone; many people are suffering right now as well; this experience is part of being human.
- Put your hands over your heart, or on your heart and your belly, and say to yourself: May I be kind to myself; may I have compassion.
However you find yourself this season, you are loved, you matter, you are not alone.
May you have the best holiday available to you.
Director of Volunteers and Bereavement