A peace-filled holiday season

News | November 11, 2021

The holidays are right around the corner and with those joyous times comes uncertainty, challenges, and stressors. This holiday season, practice self-care with these simple, helpful strategies.
by Angie Vaaler, St. Paul social worker/counselor

As the holidays approach we start to think about the ways in which we enjoy celebrating and the people we traditionally join for such festivities. For you it may be a big turkey dinner followed by a football game, hot cocoa and caroling, a trip to the local Christmas tree farm, Black Friday shopping, tobogganing at midnight, traveling to extended family, a potluck meal with your closest friends, or something entirely different.

Full of nostalgia, the holiday season and its traditions give us something to look forward to, offer us a time to connect and a sense of belonging, and provide an avenue in which we can honor some of our most cherished values and beliefs.

Last year, the pandemic challenged many, forced us to adapt our annual traditions: toning down the scale of festivities, limiting travel, and the like. It also prompted us to think about what was most important and how to find joy in the things that were possible, getting creative along the way. Some have even found that these adapted or new traditions are ones they wish to hold on to going forward!

Perhaps one of the blessings COVID-19 has brought us is an understanding that we don’t need to adhere to the rigid guidelines we sometimes set for ourselves or the things we deem as a “necessity” to making our holiday a joyful or “complete” experience. An important lesson learned is that the rituals and traditions in our lives can be adapted and evolve, or even done away with altogether, in order to meet the needs and demands of our daily life.

Despite the buzz and excitement surrounding the holidays, challenges beyond that of the pandemic such as family strife, illness, death and loss, financial burdens, or perhaps stress and burnout, may cause us to take a step back. We might feel that we still need to prepare food for 30 relatives, purchase a multitude of gifts, or attend the office/neighborhood Christmas party donning a smiling face, when inside, we don’t feel much like celebrating or prefer to honor these holidays in a quieter fashion or smaller scale. Yet sometimes it’s difficult to give ourselves permission to do just that. If unsure or unhappy with your current direction and faced with a decision of what traditions to hold on to or amend during this holiday season, the following tools may be helpful:

Be Purposeful:
Instead of doing things out of a sense of duty or obligation, consider whether it serves your purpose. Doing so brings deeper meaning and fulfillment in life and can renew our relationships with others. Examine what that purpose is for you, what it looks like, and specific actions that uphold it.

Be Mindful and Devoted:
Once you’ve chosen activities you wish to be a part of and that serve your purpose, devote yourself fully to these experiences. Allow yourself to be present – ridding yourself of distracting thoughts of how things were done in the past or how things would be better elsewhere. Such thoughts cause us to reject the current moment and further contribute to our unhappiness.

Practice Self-Compassion:
Give yourself the same grace and compassion you show others. Allow yourself to discover, feel, and fully connect with your emotions and actively nurture and care for your inner self. Set boundaries, connect with others, and choose to participate in those things that actively meet your needs.

If you, a friend, or a family member are facing the holidays with uncertainty, loss, or doubt or aren’t in the mood for celebrating, consider reaching out to Angie Vaaler, St. Paul’s Social Worker/Counselor. She can be a listening ear, help you through the process of grief & loss, or help you explore options or solutions to overcome stressors in your daily life. To schedule an appointment with Angie, call 563-326-3547. Her services are free to St. Paul members/family and the Madison Elementary community.

One comment on “A peace-filled holiday season”

  • Deanna Hessling

    November 19, 2021 at 9:48 am

    Thanks Angie. Sometimes it’s tough to be follow these three practices but so important for sanity during the season. I’m going to keep this close at hand for when I’m feeling stressed over the next few months.

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