Certainly 2020 will go down in history as the year we experienced a new normal. As we enter into this holiday season, rearranging our perspective and expectation might be helpful and necessary. For many, this has been a year to work on healthy self-care. Maybe you’ve had more time with a select few family and friends. For others the isolation and loneliness has been a significant challenge. I would suggest a few things you can focus on this holiday season.
I would encourage you to continue good self-care. Pick one specific compelling aspect of self-care that particularly speaks to you. Some different ideas might be to build a new habit like a daily practice of developing a gratitude list of what you are thankful for. Another self-care step could be to carve out some dedicated time of renewal for yourself. Do you need time for self-reflection? Time to read a good book; a cup of coffee just by yourself? Time with friends? Those things aren’t selfish to desire and might give you just what you need to connect better with your family.
Maybe you aren’t going to be able to get together with your family this year. You might consider sending some personal notes (like the old fashioned hand written ones) where you send words of appreciation or express a fond or funny memory to a loved one, especially those you may not see often or those that have been somewhat isolated. I always enjoy a hand written note expressing a kind and thankful word more than a family newsletter.
This could be the year to begin some new personal or family traditions. Think about what you value and come up with new ways of living that out. Keep it simple. Take your time in conversations. Taste the words before they come out of your mouth. Listen well be to the ones you love most with an open, generous and empathetic heart.
Joe Bucha, LPC
Our children are hearing about the corona virus. Friends are joking about it; teachers are making extra efforts to be cautious; radio and tv are mentioning it; we are talking about it amongst ourselves. What they are hearing and how they are responding will be different for each child. A very imaginative seven year old boy came to my office explaining the virus like a gas that will come over the city and kill us all. He is terrified. Another teenage girl in my office is begging her parents to cancel their Spring Break plans because she is afraid.
Here are some general guidelines for talking with your kids.
1. Talk with them. Make a point to have an age-appropriate conversation.
2. Ask them what they have heard.
3. Tell them simple facts about the virus and what is happening.
4. Give them a plan for your family.
5. Point them to truth!
6. THEN do something different. Distraction is good in these times to help break the worry cycle.
For younger kids (3-4) - There are some pretty yucky germs going around right now. These germs may give us fever and a cough. If you start feeling yucky, tell mom or dad or the school nurse. We will give you some medicine and let the dr. know.
For kids (5-above) What have you been hearing about some pretty yucky germs going around right now? JUST LISTEN. These germs cause a sickness called Corona Virus. People who have this sickness may have a really high fever and cough a lot. If you start feeling yucky, tell mom or dad or the school nurse. We want to be careful to wash our hands and not drink after each other. If we do get sick, we will take some medicine and talk with a doctor. ASK: are you a little worried or concerned about getting sick? Validate: Yes, it is hard to think about being sick. Mom and Dad do not like being sick either. REMIND: when we are thinking about these things, we know that God loves us and is with us no matter what. God cares about our bodies. God is even bigger than sickness. You can tell Him you are worried and He will hear you. Pray for God to calm our hearts and protect our bodies.
Check in with your older children to hear what they are hearing from others. If you find that your child is not wanting to participate in regular activities, is wanting to talk about the virus non-stop or is not wanting to be away from you or home, call a counselor or someone who can be an outside voice to help encourage and work through this worry.
Lastly, as always, be mindful and cautious with what you are talking about and listening to in front of your children. Little ears pick up on words and tone even when we are unaware.
Stephanie Atkinson, LAPC, CALC
For many, myself included, the start of a new year is associated with making a resolution; a firm decision to do, or not do, something throughout the upcoming year. Some people want to lose weight, others want to save money, or perhaps, spend less time working and more time with family and friends. Whatever it is, all of us have things in our life that can lead to us feeling dissatisfied. Even when life is great, our brains often have a way of reminding us of that one little thing that could be even better. The start of a new year brings about a certain amount of pressure to commit to a change. For many, coming up with, and committing to, a resolution can be a worrisome thing. Change is hard, life happens, and the calendar fills up. Before you know it, your resolution is the furthest thing from your mind. Thinking about what change to make may cause someone to reflect back on the past year and decide what went “wrong”. In other words, what could they have done differently to be happier with where they are now. Alternatively, others may look ahead to the future and think about all the “what if this” and “maybe that”, which can lead to anxiety about things that have not happened and may never happen! This year instead of committing to a resolution, what if instead we were to commit to a way of thinking; a new way of how we approach the world that can lead us to no longer dread change or fear the unknown, but accept and embrace it. This way of thinking is called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your thoughts and attentions to the experiences happening in the present moment. The idea and practice of being mindful, fully in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the moment, can be found throughout religion and therapeutic techniques. Thousands of years ago, God encouraged his followers to embrace the idea of living in the moment. In Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)- This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. What he is saying here is that God wants us to take care of ourselves, to have a good time, and to enjoy whatever job we may have. God has given us the gift of enjoying the things we have this very moment.
Further, Isaiah instructs us to move on from the past because God is making a new way. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV). By dwelling on our past shortcomings, we are separating ourselves from the work that God is doing in our lives. Where the uncertainty about our health, our career, or our family looks to us like we are stuck in the wilderness, God is at work making a way through for us.
By being mindful in your everyday life, you are able to truly be open to, and appreciate, what God has given you. Fully seeing, understanding, and experiencing our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in the present gives us the freedom to accept everything, without having to attach a judgment to it. Mindful prayer allows us to tune out the world around us, build a close, meaningful relationship with God, and experience what it is that He is doing in our lives. It gives us the clarity to decide what steps we can take to begin experiencing more happiness, enjoyment, and triumph in the year ahead. My hope for all of us is that in 2018 we can explore what it is to live in the moment during our time with the people around us, our time with God, and our time with ourselves.
Interested in learning more about mindfulness and how you can incorporate it into your day? Check out this TED talk: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzR62JJCMBQ
Chris Williams, LCSW