Archive for December, 2016

What to Do for Peaceful Holidays. Strategies for Getting Happy.

Here are the some methods for getting happy over holidays. This is not all there is. It is a place to start.

 1. Gratitude makes holidays happy. My contention is that being grateful for people, places, and things in your life is a requirement for happy holidays.

2. Find satisfaction somewhere. Often we find immediate gratification in food, drink, or buying. Yet, none of us are really satisfied by those things.  Find what makes you happy now, something that supports you in maintaining happiness.  It may be writing, or communicating with friends who satisfy your heart. People can support you in enriching your life.  Maybe evaluating your life is what you want to do at this time of year. You may be thinking: But what about maintaining the friends who expect me to go out with them, eat or drink with them, smooze with them, buy for them.  What can I do to keep up with all that? You know the answer.

3. Relax. When you relax in one area of your life, you can relax in other areas. Vice versa: when you’re uptight in one area, you’re stressed everywhere. You choose. Relaxing helps you be present to whatever it is you do.  Even a little rest goes a long way. That way your mind is not running all over the place. After relaxing, your mind doesn’t insist that your body run all over the city. If you still need to, then your body will be more ready after relaxing.

4. Sidestep too much temptation. Know what you can handle and what you can’t. If I know there are cookies in the house, you will likely be hungry for them. So remove temptation if you know it is too much for you. That goes for drinking, eating, or doing too much. If you have a problem all year with these things, get professional help.

5. Follow your heart. Start now deciding what you will and won’t do. Remember that stress adds pounds. Give up what doe not work for you. If you love doing something, remember that you want to do it. Otherwise it could devolve into a stressful “job.”

6. Meditate.

7. Delegate.

8. Practice Extreme Self-Care, as author Cheryl Richardson would say. During the holidays, routines change.  Plan now to see to it that you, and your loved ones for whom you’re responsible, don’t get off course. If you or your relative is on nighttime medicine, take the medicine to parties and set an alarm, so you remember.  Most psychotropic medicines are taken in the morning, but there might be other night time medicines. Be vigilant with your health. Don’t let routines be forgotten.  Try not to go to bed late, two nights in a row.  Make a list of what you have let slide in the past, so you find strategies to support yourself and your loved one this year.  Pay attention to your needs.  You could be so distracted that you forget to notice when a cold is starting.  Just make a pact with yourself and let your subconscious support you.  You can tell your mind to wake up at a certain time.  Try it. 

. Get support for you from a friend, or professional, depending on what it is.

10. Barter. Ask a friend who likes to decorate to do your tree and do an exchange. Maybe you’ll clean for her. at another time. Go to a coach who will support you through the season. Consult your inner wisdom and consider what brings you magic.  What makes your heart sing?  Make a list and do what you can and no more. Give up obligation if it is killing your spirit. Know what tires you out. Do what works for you.

11. Give support. Enjoyment comes from simple pleasures, not things as much. You may want to donate money to charities, and/or work at a local charity.  Spread your talents.

12. Connect more deeply.  While doing what enriches your soul, do what encourages connection. Inquire into another’s life and acknowledge their successes.  Just being in the same space with people does not mean connection.

13. Create the magic. Everyone has different interests and talents that can be used during this time. For example, my husband Ed sings and we’re both good with words, so we create funny lyrics to old holiday songs just for our enjoyment. We sing together, though my singing voice is horrid. You can talk to family members about what makes each one happy. If someone likes to cook so you may trade recipes and cook together. You might read poetry to each other. You might find little ways to make each other happy. You can do thoughtful things all year long. This is a good time to practice new acts of kindness.

Holidays can bring magic. Winter holidays all represent sacredness. Hanukkah celebrates the Festival of Lights. Winter Solstice marks nature’s promise for the return of light on the darkest day.  The Christian tradition’s is all about the Son Light born into the world. The symbolic meaning is that our light, our sacredness, yours and ours is reborn.

That’s what I want to leave you with. You ARE the light. The holiday that you celebrate can increase your realization of the light within. Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, do it in JOY.




Part Two: Possible Hassles; Assessing Your Situation

In Part One of these three parts about Holidays, Hassles, and Getting Happy, I asserted that if you can be upbeat all during the holidays, then I salute you. I don’t want anyone to get triggered by these things I am citing here. Most of us find occasional stress, so by naming challenges, you can actually dissipate most of them. It is when we are unaware that makes challenges seem bigger. Knowing what bothers you and knowing you’re not alone, can lower the stress, giving you a chance to circumnavigate the issues. After mentioning some things that get in the way of the holiday season being sane and happy, I’ll be covering some solutions and specific ways to bypass the obstacles. Then, you have a better chance to enjoy the season.

Here are some possible obstacles to holiday happiness:
1. People overload
You’ll likely be with every age person: teens who don’t want to be with family, adults who have different political or religious views, etc. There may be people too many people. Or, it may be people you don’t want to be with.

The holidays are extra difficult for many of us. On the radio a few years back, I heard that 90% of people do not like some aspect of the holidays. One reason people gave was they didn’t want to be with people they don’t like.

With mental illness during the holidays, depending on the type and severity, things can be far more stressful for them, as it can be for you, as a friend, or family member. Realizing that the sufferer gets agitated or upset at holidays does tend to affect you.

Conversely, the opposite of people overload is some people suffer from loneliness during the holidays. That’s another version of the belief that things should be different.

A corollary to loneliness is memories of so called “better” holidays or more ideal holidays that one thinks others are having. Remember your creativity can change that.

2. Doing too much
Life is already very full, then December brings obligations, if you accept them as such. Shopping, mailing, baking, decorating, and partying are some examples. All of these can be wonderful. All of it in a limited amount of time can be stressful.

Even if you don’t have a mentally ill person in your life, someone in your family may not be able to handle a lot of the holiday and you may be wishing she or he could. Notice if your expectations are causing tension.

Another complication is denial. We deny that we, and others, have trouble doing it all. Sometimes people think that their loved one should do things better, or more. Then disappointment reigns. Or, the targeted one may have self-judgment and possibly might take it out on you.

3. Spending money you don’t have
Lots of people go in debt. Children’s toys cost more now then ever. Ditto for adult gifts. Marketing makes expectations higher. When its all over after holidays how are you left? Are you enriched? Or did you spend on wasteful things? What does it do to people to get all sorts of things and those things don’t satisfy for more than three days. The whole process can leave children and adults depressed. It can disconnect us. Parents are rushing around and not connecting with children. Giving instead of being. Are you deeper in your spiritual life? Are you connected to your inner light? Being with loved ones enhances your life and theirs. Often it makes us, and our planet, ill to shop just to shop. I hear horror stories at the gym. People are resentful for all they have to buy, how much things cost and how little they have to show for their money. We’re suffering from what we’ve created. Children actually can get crabby from too many gifts. They get overwhelmed from too much. Look at what is important to you for the holidays. Only you know that. I can’t tell you what that is. Are we buying the product or the way it makes us feel? Parents are often manipulated by the children who are manipulated by the advertisers working for the corporations. And much of what your paying for is the cost of the advertising that had you think you had to buy it in the first place.

4. Less sunlight can affect you.                                                                                                           Given the outer darkness in the northern hemisphere, we’re all a little ‘thrown off’ our game at this time. Depression tends to affect more people during the winter. If you have a friend or family member who suffers, they may seem more problematic to you. They may be doing all they can to keep it going, in whatever capacity they can. Or, if you are a sufferer, life may feel more tense trying to live up to some ideal.

December includes the darkest days of the year, other than January. The shorter daylight leads up to this years solstice on December 21, 2016, though it can vary between Dec 21 – 23. An extreme time of year, it’s a turning point when days get slightly, imperceptibly longer each day. All through ancient times, people recognized the darkest day as a sacred time. They celebrated the coming longer days. The solstice is on the far edge of the most imbalance between day and night. The very thing that people crave, the light, has been staying a slightly shorter time since the summer solstice. We know that in Northern Hemisphere the earth will turn more to the sun each day after solstice. For many of us, that is a big deal. For those living in the northern climates, we look forward to the warmer days. Dark days can be challenging. Cold days can be a struggle, too. It takes courage to take care of yourself, so you’re not affected by that extreme time of year.

The question is: Are you doing all your doing because you love it? Or, are you doing it because you’ll look bad if you don’t? It’s fine to do everything, if you truly enjoy it all.

The next segment is about Getting Happy. I will list strategies to deal with December holidays. Until then, enjoy!

Part One: You’re Not Alone
Most of us have more to do over the holidays than any time of year. If you’re one who loves everything about the holidays, you are among the super lucky. I’m happy for you.

For many of us, there is some, hopefully not all, of that activity that is unwanted. Too often it’s not needed either. In another article, I’ll explore that.

This is not about bah-humbug. It’s about finding what works for you. Each of us is different, with a particular set of values, expectations, and desires that can change at various times for assorted reasons.

If you are one of those feeling a wee bit pushed-pulled, or out-of-sorts, you are not alone. And if you are a woman, you tend to have a bigger role in the work of continuing traditions. That can cause tension which causes a domino effect.

If you feel stressed, imagine how it might be for those that suffer any kind of mental illness. As an author, I advocate for the mentally ill and their families. My expertise comes from being a family member of mentally ill parents. My depressed father became even more serious, more rigid, and more emotionally distant around the holidays. My manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother’s behavior was always more rageful, unpredictable, and bizarre at holiday time. Intensity of symptoms are common this time of year.

At an early age, I knew that winter holidays could be a serious escalation of hell. More on that can be found in my book: Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents.

The purpose of this series of articles is to contribute to holiday peace on earth. Knowing the dark side, I continually strive to make holidays meaningful and enjoyable. Decades ago, I created Rising to The Occasion, a business for creating personalized, joyful celebrations. Also, as a coach, I help people deal with their relationships. You have a relationship to holidays too, even if you do not participate.

Understanding the word ‘holiday’ means ‘holy day,’ I take into account the fact that in December, there are many dozens of different religious and ethnic holy days that need peace in their households, too. So I am writing to everyone who struggles at all this time of year.

Whether or not you, or someone you know, struggles with holidays, this article is for you, especially if you feel a twinge of discontent around winter holidays. These special times can have a fabulous function in our lives. They can be memorable for all the right reasons. And that takes real intention and preparation.

The holiday expectations can be a setup for an emotional drain to a downright disaster. No matter what winter holiday you celebrate, you’ve been sold a particular type of holiday. Whatever you’ve been taught, that celebration is the only ‘right’ one. Right? Depending on your religion, culture or family background, you’ve been taught how it’s supposed to look. And some of you have been taught one tradition at home, and a different one at school.

Many don’t experience what they would like to feel. They can’t “get in the spirit” whether before or during the holidays. And afterwards, many of you wonder why all that work, and all those gifts, produced a feeling of emptiness. For some people, holidays sap their energy, and for some, they are possibly worse off than if there were no holidays.

First thing to do is to notice if there is something missing for you in the current way you celebrate. What lit you up in the past may not do it for you now. See if there is anything you might want to update or uplift about how you honor this time of year. Ask yourself: “What might stir up more joy this season? What can light up my life during the holidays and beyond?”

From your individual perspective, you can be considering how the holidays are for you, and you may be noticing how it is for others in your life. If you have to deal with others over the holidays, it is critical that you prepare for the possible difficult person in your midst. The usual holiday challenges for all of us are harder for the mentally ill. It’s even harder if that difficult person is you.

Think of the song: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. It can be. Rarely can you count on that. And, it can be the most stressful time of the year. You don’t want to sing that song of stress. It’s as if walking up steep steps everyday, and then holidays come with each step looking like a mountain. That’s how holidays affect some people with physical, as well as emotional challenges. There are people who cannot handle change in routine, so holidays pose a problem. Some of those people work with the public and you have to maneuver around their moods. Do you react negatively, or do you give sufferers some space?

No matter where you are on the stress continuum, remember others could be feeling the same, or worse. In the next article, I will describe obstacles to holiday happiness that you may relate to. Once identified, you can see more clearly what to do about them. Later, I’ll be listing ways to create a peaceful season and a joyful celebration that fits for you.