Woke up this morning thinking, “yikes, it’s December 1st.” I confess, “the season of peace” has not always been my best season, though this year my trepidations have not been as keen as in seasons past. Still under the covers, I remembered an article I wrote a number of years ago for our local Health District. (Thus its somewhat stilted and proper tone.) I dug it out, found it somewhat helpful, so thought I’d share it here. To wit:
Many people look forward to the holidays. Kids do, of course, for all the obvious reasons, as do those folks with pure hearts and untroubled minds, and those who have their shopping done by Halloween and presents sent before Thanksgiving, cookies baked and frosted by the Ides of December. Retailers look forward to the holidays, of course. Church deacons mostly do. Nuns, probably.
For many of us, alas, the season of peace is anything but peaceable. The “seasonal expectations” of family, co-workers, neighbors, retailers and church and synagogue administrators come at us like a fleet of cement trucks. Nowhere to duck. Nowhere to run. That’s why, according to psychologist Jennifer Taylor of McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, as well as police reports across the country, we see an increase in depression, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence and smoking relapses. So what to do? Here are tips from the National Mental Health Association:
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day. Remember it is a season of holiday sentiment. Activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
- Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
- Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window-shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
- Be aware that 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. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.
- Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.
The Peace Practice: And here’s an even more direct root:
- Recognize that not only during the holidays, but the whole year through, the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and for all those around us is to live in peace. So how do we do that? How do we actually live in peace?
- We live in peace when we are at peace with the thoughts we are thinking.
- So, whenever necessary or appropriate we ask ourselves, “Am I at peace with my thoughts, yes or no?” If the answer is not an immediate and spontaneous yes, it’s a no. 4.) If the answer is yes,(we enjoy the thoughts we are thinking) perfect. We’re at peace! If the answer is no, (I’m not at peace with my thoughts) then in order to return to peace, to return to health, we have two options: A. Drop or change the thoughts with which we are not at peace and find or create thoughts with which we are more at peace; or B. Choose to be at peace with the thoughts with which a moment before we were not at peace.
It’s a simple practice, yet very powerful. And curiously enough, once we recognize that living in peace is both the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and all those around us, and as we actually begin to live in peace, practice peace, if only a little, moment by moment, then we easily, even spontaneously drop the habits and actions (and people and places) with which we are not at peace. It’s the season of peace. Let’s actually practice peace every day, every hour, every moment, the best we know how.
If you have other tips and tricks for how to practice peace, please share them with us. It’s the most peaceable, and kindest, thing we can do.