So, what are we doing here?

One might wonder, in response to the above question I pose, “Umm…what exactly do you mean by that…and, more importantly, by ‘here’…?”

Agreed. Touche.

Each of us continues to find ourselves ensconced in a world that is admittedly askew. Omicron is afoot (and sounds like an ominous Transformer), the holidays are approaching, and we have largely no idea which way is up. We might add that we certainly know which way is down, when talking about how each of us is feeling and doing. Darker and colder days (despite our glorious Fall here in Calgary this year), volatile prices (i.e., energy, fuel, groceries), and uncertain holiday plans/restrictions abound. Though the antidote to anxiety is most very often to avoid avoiding and to tolerate uncertainty/distress – my clients know all-too-well my diatribes in this domain! – we all could concede that this has been a bit much. We have been tolerating. We have been distressing. We have been uncertain. C’mon now, people – time for a reprieve!

So, what is the answer? It is not crystal clear. However, a few tidbits to consider, and to possibly implement this upcoming holiday season, could include the following suggestions:

Streamline and Minimize: During a time of year equally associated with chaos and joy, it can be difficult to find the balance between indulgence and mindfulness. As we approach our upcoming seasonal activities, whether they be decorating, cooking, baking, socializing (hardy-har), praying, rejoicing, celebrating, skating, skiing, eggnogging…let us be mindful of what we are doing and the why behind it. ‘Tis the season to feel pressure to perform, display, and perfect our images; if we are not careful about the true intent behind our actions, this can easily become a wintry slope. By removing the unnecessary, we effectively eliminate the excess that can often lead to a sense of disappointment, confusion, and having let ourselves and those around us down. It need not be this way. Let us be selective in how we spend our time, energy, and even money this season, and we are likely to find a more congruent and authentic way of being in the now, whatever that entails.

Manage Expectations: At the very core of expectations, we place on ourselves and others (and they place on us), is found the concept of shoulds – anyone versed in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can attest to the core function of shoulds in our lives. Unnecessary and unrealistic shoulds can, quite frankly, lead to a miserable experience. Similar to streamlining and minimizing as described above, we can be purposeful in what we hope and expect to unfold, to ensure that we are not setting ourselves or others up for failure and/or disappointment.

Validate, Nurture, and Persevere: It has been a rough go; we are a tough species. Let us keep on truckin’, with a synergy of pushing ourselves to do and be our best, as well as a degree of self-compassion as to what we have endured. This invites us to listen to our needs, as well as those about whom/for we care, and to ensure we have a healthy manifestation of what I like to call gentle grit.

Ergo, this holiday season, let us each endeavour to strive on, as we pause and reflect about purpose, meaning, intention, expectation, and connection. Let us celebrate ourselves, those around us, and the bigger themes of the holiday season, in whatever way we choose to interpret and implement them.