An important concept of doing our work to be well is to discover all the places where we have choices that we never realized. Instead of approaching our lives and busy holiday times trying to keep up with all that comes at us, we can learn to become more proactive. - Susie Smidt, MA, LMFT
As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, we anticipate road trips, family gatherings, longer “to-do” lists, and a general increase in what we have going on. If you’re at all like me, you can feel challenged and stressed at times to balance it all – even when the things are fun…and sometimes they’re not.
I’m reminded of all the ways that our work in recovery can benefit and enhance the peace and happiness we experience in this time of increased busyness and activity. Some of you as readers are likely in a place in your lives that you’re anticipating all the celebration with eagerness while others of you might feel worry, anxiety or even dread as you look at the remainder of the year and everything that’s on the calendar.
It might feel true for you that family relationships feel challenging in this time after an addiction or betrayal has been discovered. Maybe you don’t feel the same excitement as holidays past- maybe family relationships have become complicated or estranged – or perhaps you don’t feel like celebrating at all and wish it would just all be over.
These are all common sentiments that I hear in my office so I would like to share some thoughts about navigating holidays and finding enjoyment at the same time. Maybe it’s not the same things that have brought joy in the past… nevertheless, I feel that joy and peace can still be a part of our celebrating if we can look at things differently.
There are some addiction/betrayal situations that are just so fresh and raw as these holidays appear that it simply is not possible to do all the same traditions and keep up with all the things we’ve always done for the holidays – maybe in this picture, we find peace in saying “no” to some things we don’t want to or simply cannot do and work on giving ourselves permission to have that be okay for this year.
Along with the “no” we can also say “yes” to other surprising things we might have never noticed before. Where might we find joy in little things. At one of those times in my journey I was walking into the lobby of a medical building going to a routine exam one busy December day and a volunteer was playing beautiful music there on a grand piano. The music touched me in that moment, and I allowed myself to linger there and feel the gift.
An important concept of doing our work to be well is to discover all the places where we have choices that we never realized. Instead of approaching our lives and busy holiday times trying to keep up with all that comes at us, we can learn to become more proactive. In looking at a busy time, planning our participation, naming our limits, and choosing thoughtfully we have a greater chance to feel the peace that we seek (and probably minimize resentment too). I’m not claiming this to be a quick or easy process but in working toward this, I think we can “right-size” our expectations and create celebrations that nurture rather than deplete us. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Do you tend to go into holiday family gatherings and work commitments with no plans about what you will do to care well for your needs?
Could you consider being more proactive before even going to decide a couple of things you might need while there?
Could you then develop a plan for yourself about how you will get those needs met in healthy ways?
Could you identify other safe people involved who could support you in getting needs met, help watch your kids, or go out for a walk with you to take a break?
Don’t forget the safe community you are developing in your groups either. Maybe you meet your need by stepping out of the event, finding a quiet place and enjoying a phone or text conversation to get yourself back on track.
As I have led and co-led groups over the years, one challenge that we have often given at this time of year to the women in groups is this…. Would you be willing to think about one thing during this holiday season – these next 2 months -- that you could work on doing differently that would take down stress and bring you joy? This challenge can be for men and women alike and I hope you will take some time to consider what this might be for you.