Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Another holiday season approaches and we are still learning how to deal.
By Jessica Swan
December 8, 2021
Humanity has reached the 2 year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we head into the end of 2021 and the holidays with tired bodies, stressed systems, ever-expanding fears and perpetual grief and loss. The health care system and the millions of nurses, doctors, maintenance staff, administrators, social workers, and health care support staff are traumatized, being over-worked in untenable conditions, as are teachers, children, parents, EMTs, counselors, ministers - the list goes on and on and on. We see a major increase in drug and alcohol use and substance use disorder diagnoses, mental health crises, overdoses, violent crimes, and suicides. There's so much more we could add to this list, but you already know that feeling of piling-on and brain-numbing information that makes you shut down or tune out. It's no wonder we feel a sense of hopelessness! We've compiled a list of ways to find hope through these remaining days of the year.
1. Remember to feel.
It is important to honor your feelings. Let them come and let them move through you. Cry if you want to or if feel it bubbling up, let it out. Punch a pillow if you need to. Hold your hand to your heart and breathe. Whatever the feelings are that surface, know that it is ok, you are human, and you are allowed to have feelings. Allowing your feelings to come and move through you makes room for the heart to open up again, and allows our brains to start seeing more than just the pain of this life.
2. Take five.
Take just five minutes to walk around outside, pet your dog, light a candle and look at it, or try out a mindfulness meditation. An easy one is the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory meditation. Name to yourself 5 things you see right now, 4 things you touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste.
Taking just five minutes for yourself (even if it is in the bathroom - lock the door, parents!), will help your brain and body reset, soothe your parasympathetic nervous system, and allow you a little room for some hope to creep in.
3. Ask for help.
We tend to give a lot this time of year, and sometimes that means we use up all the gas in our tank. Try asking for help from a friend, family member, therapist, support group, or even a stranger! It may surprise you that others typically want to support you if you let them. In a world where we feel that we must bear the burden alone or take care of everything for everyone else, why not try to share the load a little or let someone in by simply saying, "Hey - can you please help me with this?" Hope builds when we see the good of humanity (despite our inclinations to think otherwise).
4. Pay attention.
Make a decision to seek out opportunities to be kind. It is easy to get bogged down and forget to pay attention to the world and the folks around us. Because we know that the world is overly stressed and overly fearful (just like you!), we can make a conscious decision to be kind to one person today. Before you leave the house to go to the store, decide to be kind to one person you do not know. You might be surprised how, no matter what the other person does, it will change how you feel. Remembering to pay attention to our environment and seeking out ways to be generous cultivates hope within.
5. Remember that we made it to this moment.
If you are reading this, you made it to this very moment, through a lot of difficulties. There are blessings you received. There's a combo of gifts, luck, support, decisions, choices, circumstances that have brought you to this very day, this moment. Isn't it amazing that you are here?
Just think of all you have been through - whew, what a road! Thank goodness you went through all that so that you could see - you can do this for another day. You are doing it. You are making it. You matter. You have something to offer. We need you. The tapestry of this world would not be the same without you. Do you feel that? It's a little slice of hope creeping in again. Happy holidays!