The annual stress of the holiday season could be even more intense than usual this year.
Thanks to COVID-19, families may need to reconsider those Thanksgiving trips to grandmother’s house – or at least social distance around the turkey. Nervous shoppers are wondering whether to do all their gift buying right away lest the supply chain once again run into trouble and stockings end up empty.
In short, the pandemic has the potential to take the usual holiday
depression, loneliness and general angst to a whole new level, while also draining away much of the season’s merriment, goodwill and childlike wonder.
But it needn’t be that way, says Dr. Allen Lycka
“As we approach the holidays – and all the
expectations that come with them – it’s worth
remembering that in life you can’t control everything,” Lycka says. “That’s true even in the best circumstances, but it’s been especially true this year. It is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens.”
Doc Lycka offers a few ways to lessen the pain of what happens to us through positive actionable steps that include:
Practice the power of gratitude. With all the negative things that 2020 brought – a pandemic,
social unrest, a divisive election – it’s easy to
forget the many things you can be thankful for, Lycka says. “Giving thanks for what we have and for the people in our lives, and realizing that this is something that will bring us joy changes your perception,” he says. “It turns from having a 'me' focus to a focus on others. Even in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I can press pause, enter my own zone of
silence and picture all I am grateful for, and this is my secret weapon to the daily stresses of the 21st century. We all need to press pause, reflect, and be grateful. Practice this regularly and experience a radical change in your life.”
Indulge in self-compassion. Showing compassion for others is wonderful, but it’s also important to show yourself compassion if you feel you failed to meet other people’s holiday expectations, or if world events cause you more worries than you can handle, Lycka says. “Self-compassion is the practice of noticing what you’re feeling and remembering that you’re human and therefore
fallible, just like everyone else,” he says. “It’s about treating yourself with the same kindness you would give to a beloved friend. Unfortunately, few of us have been trained to respond to ourselves in this way. Much more often, our response is to beat ourselves up when we stumble. But research has shown – and your own experience may echo – that self-flagellation is counterproductive.”
Make an effort to forgive. Holidays are a time when grudges can become magnified. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to put any pain you still feel behind you and consider forgiveness, Lycka says. It won’t just make the holidays better, but your life as well. “When we refuse to forgive and instead indulge in thoughts or acts of revenge, retaliation, and hate, we keep the cycle going and going,” Lycka says. “I once read that forgiveness does not mean you have to break bread with the transgressor. What it does mean for you, in the most positive sense, is when you wish them well you also give yourself peace.”
“Finally, this holiday season would be a great time to begin practicing spontaneous acts of kindness,” Lycka says. “Have you ever noticed how good it feels to say or do something kind for someone else? Performing random, spontaneous acts of kindness has been shown to boost self-image, lead us to perceive others more compassionately, promote a greater sense of connection with others, and feel grateful for our good fortune. We could all use a little kindness as 2020 draws to a close.”
Dr. Allen Lycka is a keynote speaker, thought leader, life coach, and mentor. At the top of his career in 2003, he was told he had six months to live – a misdiagnosis that led him to discover his new calling.