Feelings Holidays Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care Stress Wellness

Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.


How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.


Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:


Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?


Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).


1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.


2. Buy a homeless person a meal.


3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.


4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.


5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.


6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.


Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.


Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.


These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.


So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.




Holidays, Part Deux

For many, the holidays bring copious joy and a sense of celebration: there are a bevy of lights illuminating the city streets, Santa’s everywhere you look, school’s out for two weeks, family gatherings are plentiful, and everyone is ready for a “break,” right?  Well, that’s not always the case for the alcoholic/addict. When I was new in sobriety, the holidays were dreadful, and I had little to no coping skills in terms of dealing with the inevitable difficulties that can arise around family. I would spend every waking moment in marathon meetings, eager to recreate a sense of connection. I’m forever grateful for that experience.

As I gained more years under my belt and my proverbial tool box filled up with a variety of solutions applicable to most situations, my coping skills became broader. I became able to engage with my family in small doses, despite the fact that the sense of discomfort hasn’t ever really gone away. The thing is, just because we’ve continued to work on our behavior and our sense of disillusionment, doesn’t mean the rest of our families have as well. A lot of the time, they’re going to be the same as they always were. So, what does that mean for us addicts and alcoholics?

For starters, it’s an opportunity to put all of the hard work we do into action, but on a grander scale. Perhaps we can begin to treat a difficult person as the suffering being that they are and offer them compassion. What do you think would happen if you approached them with an open heart instead of anger and resentment?  If that’s too hard, because the trauma is too fresh or too deep, then treat yourself with compassion and take a break. Call your sponsor, or a safe friend and check in; step outside and take 10 (yes, really) deep breaths–the kind that fills your lungs all the way to the top! And if all else fails, get yourself to a meeting. It’s one of the best aspects of recovery during the holidays: the meetings, just like the holiday cheer, are a-plenty!


Surviving the Holidays

Wondering how you’re going to make it through a day of screwball family dynamics and holiday “cheer”?  You’re not alone. This time of year can bring up a flurry of emotions, some ecstatic and some reminiscent of Chernobyl.  Since the curve is broad, managing it all can be difficult. So, then how do we do this?

Taking an honest look at our expectations is a great start. We have them from our internal sources of desire as well as the implied expectations put upon us by the bottled cheer we see when we’re out in the world. It’s the holidays, we are supposed to be happy, right?  Perhaps, but it doesn’t always go that way. We may find ourselves stuck sitting next to our biggest button-pusher, or suddenly engaged in a conversation about “what it was like” with a well-meaning member of the family. What’s important, at least for me, is the way in which to respond. It’s a great opportunity to be gentle with yourself in the face of adversity and a wonderful reminder to hold up those boundaries you may have set.

Something else that can be helpful is staying in the present moment. It’s easy to get locked into the stories of our past and sometimes difficult not to react to those echos. For me, setting an intention for my day, either in a quiet moment of meditation or in my yoga practice, is key. Sometimes it can mean acknowledging there may be difficulty, but finding a way to approach it differently; it could mean setting an intention to be kind to yourself and to approach others with compassion; or it could mean setting the intention to be in gratitude.

This holiday season, we have a wonderful opportunity to take contrary action and meet our pain with compassion, and our frustration with gratitude. Remember to laugh, take breaks, and enjoy each moment–you are amazing!  As the Buddha said, “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

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