Sometimes we hear our friends discussing their plans for “surviving the holidays.” We understand their sense of pain and frustration: perhaps this is their first holiday without a loved one; perhaps they cannot afford what they want to give their children; perhaps the holidays re-awaken difficult memories of past holidays with painful unmet expectations or even abusive situations.
But whatever the reason, holidays can be more than a time for simply “surviving.” Rather, they can usher in a season of THRIVING once we understand these five simple steps.
(Note: While these steps are important to undertake sequentially, please do not expect nor attempt perfection before moving to the next step; simply give each one your attention, desire, and effort.)
Step 1: Acceptance - Be with what is
Work to understand and accept the world as you know it. This may be the most difficult step in the list but is also the most important. It does not mean that you resign yourself to accepting that things will never change. It simply means that you accept the conditions as they are now presented to you while maintaining 1) your hope for a better future and 2) your commitment to work for a better future. You can work to balance the synergy of receiving the world as it is and at the same time working for the changes that will make it better. (It is also important to note that you can accept things as they are while still having firm boundaries in place to keep yourself safe and well.)
Step 2: Gratitude - Notice what is good
Make a short list of relationships for which you are most grateful. These may include relationships with other individuals or specific forms of nature (e.g., a special tree, a beloved pet, your favorite beach or waterfall). This list may include skills you have developed or talents that are yet to be fully developed. This list will help guide you through making good choices on how you invest your time and energy during the holidays. Developing a sense of gratitude also usually helps us cultivate our sense of being connected to the larger experience of life as it is unfolding before us.
Step 3: Courage - Take a stand
Make a conscious decision about taking a stand. What do you care about this holiday season? How will you work to bring more positive change into your life, family, or community? Spend time making a commitment to a simple change that might help bring about other positive changes or results– more exercise? Less consumption? More silence? Whatever you select, work to take a graceful but firm stand to encourage positive changes in your world.
Step 4: Compassion - Soothe yourself
We recommend that you set aside time each day when you can soothe yourself. This can be a time of deep breathing, meditation, centering prayer or any form that helps you quiet your mind and disengage from demanding situations. This need not be a long time: it can be done as quickly as three minutes with deep breathing. But it is vitally important to have this time set aside and to honor it with your intention and practice.
Step 5: Curiosity - Develop new possibilities
The smartest individuals we know share one thing in common: a very high degree of curiosity. What are the challenges that you face and how might increasing your curiosity about the challenge make it less of a challenge? Similarly, what are your accomplishments that could be taken to the next level by increasing your curiosity about the situation? Practicing curiosity helps make us more open to new possibilities!
Acceptance, gratitude, courage, compassion, and curiosity. Repeat these five steps each day during the holidays and you will find that you not only survive, you will have a wonderful advance start on your new resolutions for the coming year!
We can help
If you find that a friend or family member is struggling with any of these steps, let us help! We want this holiday season to bring new inspirations for your coming year!
Thanks to Thom Anderson, LCSW and Elizabeth Wilder Young, LCSW for their excellent feedback and suggestions for this post!