That says a lot about the people in my neighborhood!
I jest, but it’s not just my neighborhood. Reports of weapons in schools, shootings, and random acts of violence have increased since Thanksgiving. I’m guessing that emerging from lockdown and reconnecting with family and friends wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We all heard how people got so depressed in lockdown, but it turns out that it wasn’t great for our social skills either. We’re having to re-learn the social etiquette that’s necessary to live in a stable, productive society.
Then again, the world itself is hardly stable. Case in point: Omicron. COVID is being a typical virus by mutating and staying alive. I can hear that Bee Gees song in my head right now.
Then there are the usual irritants: too much to do, too many people, and too little time.
I get it, folks. I feel the strain too. The short days, wacky weather, and overstuff calendars take a toll, and it’s harder this year because we got a break from it with lockdowns last year. I think the holiday season is another one of those areas where we pushed too hard to “get back to normal” without considering if there’s a better way to do things. Now we’re paying for it with people telling us to schedule our therapy sessions online NOW, because we aren’t charming enough to convince everybody that “it’s fine.”
Let’s be brutally honest today and look for ways to relieve some of the strain so we can salvage the holiday season with some grace and dignity, shall we? Here are some steps I’ve found to help you get a grip on a reality, and find a better way to do things:
Ask yourself: Are your expectations realistic? This is a question I was challenged with before Thanksgiving, and it’s shifted my paradigm in ways I didn’t imagine. Too often, we get stuck in our own heads, and look at the world and the people around us with tunnel vision. I think this is especially applicable after two not at all normal years, where pretty much all of us were dealing with “life happening” in a world that wasn’t, and forcing us to deal with things in unusual and difficult ways.
The “sabbatical” from lockdown is over, and now we have to heal those hurts as we move forward in this strange new world. A good place to start is to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic in this new reality. I’m not just talking about your expectations of others, but yourself as well. Can you get life back on the track you planned, or did COVID close some doors, and you need to find new ways, or new dreams? If you do get back on track, can you adjust to the changes in the routine and path that you once knew? Nothing is the same, and we’re all finding that “normal” is probably a note in history in some ways now. Work on dealing with that, and let it be a guiding force in how you deal with others.
Everything isn’t about you. In fact, very little is, because most people have their hands full tending to themselves and their own business. We’re all trying. What we really need to do right now is what’s right, and our best. Remember the saying: “one moment can change a day, one day can change a life, and one life can change the world.” It’s all connected. Make sure your connection is a good one filled with light and inspiration. You can’t get anything good from a bad attitude, so be mindful of your attitude. A good one will elevate you above circumstances.
Do Not Engage. This is something I heard in a Driver Training Refresher course last week and applied immediately in 5:00 traffic. I applied it again differently the next day with an angry service person. If peoples’ temper gets the better of them, it’s best to not engage. People in a highly emotional state won’t listen to logic because they can’t hear it, so trying to “talk them down” is a waste of time. Simply walk away, and refuse to engage with them until you’re convinced that they’ve stabilized.
Leave the hysteria to the mental health professionals. They have billboards all over the place. There’s no excuse for people to not know where to go for emotional help. Just walk away, pray for the Lord to speak to them, and let it go.
Bake Cookies. It took me years to realize this is code speak for “Taking a Mental Health Day.” Why didn’t you guys tell me this? I spent the better part of a decade thinking we were going to be wide as all outside with all of these weekends “baking cookies!”
After my “do not engage” experiences late last week, I decided to “bake cookies” Saturday, and it did me a world of good. I’m not sure why we believe we have to do everything in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it’s always been that way and it isn’t going to change. We all want to engage and fully experience the holidays, but it’s your personal responsibility to keep the right balance. It’s ok to say “no,” and there are polite ways to decline an invitation without making excuses or offering explanations. It’s also ok to take some time out, and I encourage it daily, even if it’s just an hour to watch something on TV or read a book.
So bake those cookies this weekend. And take some time each night to eat them as well.
Meditate. If you have Netflix, they have a great interactive app called “Headspace” with meditations to relax and unwind. They even have “sleep stories” to help you relax and go to sleep. Check out this app if you have Netflix. It’s simple, but effective.
If you don’t have Netflix, then there are also apps for your phone or on your computer to help you relax and calm your mind. Check them out, perhaps while you’re eating all of those cookies during the daily downtime I suggested above.
Take Care of Yourself. You aren’t good to anybody if you breakdown, and self care should be part of your daily routine anyway. If it isn’t, get a head start on New Year’s Resolutions by implementing what I call “the three basic steps” to create balance in your life. There are three steps spiritually and three steps physically:
Spiritually: read and mediate on God’s word (The Bible), pray about everything, and be obedient to the Holy Spirit.
Physically: eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.
If these six things aren’t part of your daily routine, start implementing them, one at a time, now. Invest in a Bible with daily readings, and check out that Headspace app on Netflix (or another meditation) to help you sleep better. That’s a good, simple start on a better path to balance.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. It’s especially tricky coming back to it after a year off. I know I’m not the only one sitting in 5:00 traffic every afternoon frustrated and asking “where did all of these people come from?” Reintegrating is difficult, but it’s necessary to resume the “normal” we long for. So let’s not lose it. Let’s try a bit harder, and make good on our promises from 2020 to create that “new normal” that we said we wanted. And a good place to start is owning the holidays, instead of the holidays owning you.
That’s all today. I hope these musings and tips are helpful. Take care and have a great week.