Though the holiday season is thought to be a joyous time by all, many find the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to be stressful and emotional. As a helping professional, I have observed the approaching holiday season as both a joyous time, as well as a time filled with heartache and family conflict.
The holidays often surface emotions from the past with greater intensity. Unresolved conflict, hurt, and past regrets are heightened with the approaching end of the New Year. Maybe goals were unfulfilled, or relationships came to an end, or a loved one passed away, or a deep family conflict remains an open wound. Many report to me that the pain can become unbearable, the sorrow of a missed loved one seems inescapable, or the motivation to get along with a particular family member for one meal seems just too much.
This holiday season, focus on one word to pull you toward happiness, fulfillment, and contentment: HOPE. There is always HOPE. Hope surfaces faith, love, joy, and the beauty in all of us to turn to others and GIVE. The act of giving pushes away pain, hurt, and isolation.
Follow this simple exercise to prepare your heart to take in all the joy around you this holiday season:
1. Write down 10 things you are most grateful for today. Read them over. Your heart will fill with gratitude, bring you to the present, and create thoughts of joy.
2. On 10 notes write “I am grateful for you.” And personally hand them (or if not possible, mail them) to the 10 most important people in your life. A bonus would be to include a positive affirmation about each person that you find endearing. Such as, “I am grateful for you. You are a great listener.” – What a beautiful gift. Create place cards for your holiday table, use them as stocking stuffers, or labels for gifts.
Grieving can take on new pain over the holidays:
Knowing that a very important person may include the memory of a loved one, write down your gratitude for them and place the note in a photo album or next to a picture of them. By embracing gratitude for the beautiful memories you have, you are holding their spirit close and honoring every piece of their life.
3. Do the one thing you enjoy the most this holiday. Take time to nurture yourself. You will have more energy to give, resentment will diminish, and you will take in the good in everyone. Everyone seems more pleasant when you are relaxed!
And finally, center yourself with this thought;
Gratitude, the act of giving, pulls me closer to others, to creation, to hope, and to love.