Last week we unpacked Thanksgiving a bit with traditions of family, food, and festivities that go into making Thanksgiving Day so memorable. But as this week finds us finalizing menus, grocery lists, and travel plans- trying to decide whether to travel or not to travel. Who’s got time to really be thankful?
Even though the Holidays are a fun time of the year filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings, for many it’s also a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety. Add to that, we currently find ourselves in a new resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic with cases surging, hospitals and staff maxed to capacity, and we’re all wondering what’s the safest and best way to navigate the holidays – especially this year?
Balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, all in a pandemic setting – may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension. People who don’t necessarily view themselves as depressed may develop stress symptoms such as: headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating & insomnia. Sound familiar?
WebMD¹ posted a wonderful list of 19 things we can do to alleviate the Holiday stress and depression in our lives. See my top 10 favorites below:
Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
Do not put all your energy into just one day (i.e., Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
Live and enjoy the present.
Look to the future with optimism.
If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
Limit your drinking, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
Spend time with supportive and caring people.
Make time for yourself!
My wife, Sandi, has a unique way at looking at circumstances with a lovely hint-of-positivity (She’s a 6 on the enneagram scale with a probable 7 wing). It’s really more than positivity – as running a house with 8 kids, 2 pets, and me gave her ample opportunity for reflection. She’d often say the things that she was thankful for and then make-a-list: the stack of dirty dishes that meant we had just enjoyed a really good dinner; the piles of dirty laundry (a constant with 8 kids) as it meant her loved ones were near; her clothes that may have been a little snug that meant we had more than enough to eat; and the alarm that went-off-way-too-early that meant we were blessed with jobs to do.
Early on in this COVID-19 pandemic she asked, “So what’s the one thing that you’d like to keep from this COVID-19 quarantine and experience?”
Before answering that question, I want to acknowledge that with the COVID-19 pandemic – has come much suffering and loss of not only many businesses, jobs, and livelihoods, but loss of human lives, as well. It’s been a tough season.
I answered Sandi’s question rather quickly, as I had so enjoyed the slowed pace-of-life. I heard birds sing. I waved to neighbors that now walked the neighborhood. I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner with my best friend. Even our dog Pippy now enjoyed naps, by-my-side, as I worked form home. “I’d love to keep this pace, with you, if possible?”
Six months later, and we’re still trying to keep this unhurried and un-busy way of living. It’s so daily. In retrospect, I think there was more to Sandi’s question than I had earlier thought? Lately I’ve thought of my parent’s depression era stories of eating pumpkin three meals a day, doing chores before & after school, and a tin can that doubled as a ball thrown back & forth over the house. My Mother said she never once felt poor or had done without. Maybe that’s the secret.
Our Pastor, Marty Grubbs, at Crossings Community Church has just finished a series on the Serenity Prayer². The Serenity Prayer is a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The prayer spread rapidly through church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.
In closing the series this week, Marty highlighted the Serenity Prayer’s call to us to accept this current world as it is. The ability to take this world, not as we would have it, trusting that all things would be made right – could be so apropos this Thanksgiving. See the Serenity Prayer³:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
At Conizo, we believe that wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever conditions we find ourselves⁴. This art of skillful living may require us to look deeper than our current circumstances. Especially this Thanksgiving. We may need to, as our parents and their parents before them, write our own stories of wisdom and hope.
It just may be at the intersection of wisdom and hope, where we find a deeper understanding of this year’s Thanksgiving. From all of us at Conizo – Happy Thanksgiving!
Live Life Well
WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/depression/holiday-depression-stress, November 23, 2020
Marty Grubbs, Serenity Prayer Series, www.crossings.church
The Serenity Prayer
Peterson, Eugene, The Message, copyright @2002, Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale Publishers, Inc.