by Carole Copeland Thomas
COVID has ushered in a different type of holiday season. And even in years past, for some, the holidays are a triumphant time to celebrate the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and other religious and non-religious traditions of the season. Past years included gift-giving, office parties, and tons of food earmarked with company bonuses, holiday concerts, and family get-togethers wrapped up in bright shiny packages. Most of all, children are showcased because their excitement and anticipation of Christmas are filled with toys, presents, and at least a one week break from school.
Those are the happy reflections of the holidays that perhaps represent your current state of mind despite an invisible virus that has altered our lives worldwide. For others, a different picture unfolds as another season, yields a new level of sadness, misery, and loss.
I know both kinds of holidays, including the happiness of my childhood years combined with the first Christmas after losing my teenage son. The happy and the sad times are both graphic reminders of what many people are facing this December in the midst of COVID.
For those who are struggling to get through the season, here are FIVE ways to cope with the holidays in a proactive and intentional manner. These are proven methods that have helped me in past years and should help those who need an anchor to navigate the season.
1. Think Of December As A Temporary Moment In Time
I am reminded of my dear friend, Joni Spicer, who faced terminal cancer in 2018 and how she navigated through that year. She made up her mind, called all of her friends, and hosted her Annual Christmas Eve Open House. I dropped by early on and was amazed by her courage and confidence to celebrate the temporary. She was thin as a rail but looked elegant and beautiful. Her house was decorated like a Norman Rockwell Christmas card. I understand that countless friends attended her gathering and celebrated "the here and now" with Joni and her family.
We buried Joni in January 2019, but what a climactic ending she orchestrated with every ounce of energy she had in her body. It was a temporary moment in time and a way for this courageous woman not to let death define her holiday spirit. Her act of courage will stay with me forever.
Perhaps you can find some ritualistic way to celebrate what you have in a meaningful and spirit-filled manner. Do it on Zoom since holiday gatherings are discouraged with COVID numbers spiking up. Yes, it's temporary, but it will hopefully move you through a more inviting 2021.
2. Your Loss Is Real, And Your Pain Is Normal
Perhaps there are only a few close friends to whom you can express this emotion. Most people are simply too wrapped up in their own drama to take on yours. Some people don't care, others want you to "get over it," and a tiny fraction are gleeful about your misery.
Be careful whose confidence you keep. When you're in pain, emotionally or physically, express yourself to those who really care. Don't ignore your feelings, and don't navigate this month in denial. You're human, and your sheer resilience should help you gain the strength and hopefulness to move forward in your life.
3. Reflect On The Positive
Our human nature and our protective emotional devices propel us from zero to 500 when events take place. You receive a note from your doctor that a second test is needed for precautions only. Your mind immediately focuses on a terminal illness.
It's difficult to schedule a meeting with your boss about that raise you're going to request. Your mind tells you that something is wrong and your job is in jeopardy.
Or a normal business slowdown occurs in December, and you panic with thoughts of your company shutting down.
You see the COVID statistics and death rate in your country and around the world and overthink the possibility of catching the virus, even though you routinely wear a mask and wash/sanitize your hands.
These are all very real emotions that YOU must manage. Going to the "dark side" is a natural reaction. YOU must manage that reaction by pumping your thoughts with positive ideas, affirmations, and expectations. Do it first thing in the morning, EVERY morning, to remind YOU that a positive perspective is more productive than negative stimulators. Thank your doctor for her/his proactive choice that will KEEP you healthy in the days ahead. Understand that your boss has deadlines to meet and has NOT forgotten to schedule a meeting with you. Remind yourself next summer to add on extra marketing activities so that WHEN the December slowdown happens, you'll be prepared. And continue your vigilant health and social distancing routine so that you will protect yourself from catching COVID.
It's a mind shift, designed to redirect your thoughts in a more positive-proactive manner.
4. Add Lighting To Your Home or Office
Depending on where you live in the world, shorter days in December might affect your emotions. That's a real clinical condition for some, whose emotional state is directly impacted by increased darkness in late afternoons. And there's an entire historical pagan tradition around December 21st, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.
To counter the darkness, add additional lighting to your home or office. If you celebrate Christmas, the lights on Christmas trees and other holiday decorations can improve your mood. So think of adding additional lamps and other lighting devices from December through March as mood-picker uppers. Fireplaces are also beneficial. Light and sunshine work wonders on improving your emotional state of being and general outlook on life.
Yes, deep breathing provides a healthy and proactive way to clear your thoughts and center your spirit for another day of adventure. As part of my morning routine after prayers and journaling, I recite a positive affirmation that reminds me to breathe and stay calm during the day. It's a good way to center yourself while being reminded that your mind and body will be better positioned for whatever life throws at you when you practice deep breathing and staying calm. That's my morning message to ME as I face all the ups and downs in my business and personal life.
From yoga to health regimens to working out, deep breathing gives you energy and provides the pathway to stay focused on your goals and objectives. There are countless breathing exercises you can build into your daily regimen to add value to your healthy lifestyle activities.
These FIVE steps will help you pick yourself up when you feel the positive energy draining from your system. Try them and pass them on to others. Learn how to take life one day at a time. Explore ways to manage your emotional and physical conditions so that you see more promising possibilities in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
Determine what you can and cannot CONTROL or CHANGE. Adjust your attitude when circumstances are out of your control. Fortifying the positive aspects of your attitude will help prepare you for more meaningful and beneficial opportunities in your future.
You can cope! You can overcome your challenges! You can make it through the dynamic days of December.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.