If you could choose a word to describe how you would like the end of the year to feel, what word would you choose?
There is a distinction here. This question requires you to call in what you don’t want, and perhaps more importantly, what you do want. The answer does not define your favorite part of the season, or what you expect. Rather, it helps you tune into the feelings, habits, people, places, and things that help you stay in alignment with your values, beliefs, and goals. With the holidays packing a punch this time of year, this one word can do the very same.
When our Care Team members ask this question to their participants, they hear a great variety, each unique and personal to the person naming it. Words like simple, family, calm, jolly, love, and slower are often amongst the top responses. There are also words like productive, consistent, healthy, and connected. It can be fun to see what comes to mind when asked to summarize your desires in just one word.
Words are powerful.
History has shown that words are powerful, and can both negatively and positively impact those receiving or using them. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech caused civil and political rights activists to take action, some of which were life threatening, in order to make changes to future laws and policies that were racist in nature. Subhas Chandra Bose’s Give me Blood and I will Give you Freedom spurred war for liberation of India from Britain. Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, Christ, Mother Teresa, and even Elvis, echo the forbidden halls of the brain to think and therefore, feel differently. Furthermore, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg and communications expert, Mark Robert Waldman, proclaim that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Now that is really fun!
Now, back to the holidays!
Think and feel positive.
Though words can hold a lot of weight, finding just one positive word to summarize what you want can be tough. For many, this time of year feels a lot less like a choice and more like a penance. There are gifts to buy, sometimes for people who don’t really need or want anything. There are cookies and desserts to bake and share, only to feel guilty for eating later. There are parties to attend, whether you want to be there or not. There is magic to be spun, an elf’s backstory to create, and all manner of expectations that we put on ourselves to have this month be the most wonderful time of the year.
But are there, really? A 2021 study by the American Psychiatric Association found what you likely knew to be true already - that most Americans find the holidays to be incredibly stressful. You may know what we want to experience during the holidays: calm, simplicity, connectedness, but you don’t necessarily expect to get it.
Time to Adjust
And that, in itself, is where you can make the change. By choosing how you want the holiday season to be, you can look for opportunities to create it for yourself. So, imagine just for a minute that it is New Year’s Day and you're reflecting on the holidays that have just occurred. What made you most satisfied during the holidays? Do you have any key words standing out that describe the feelings you are having? Better yet, where can that chosen word be woven into how you show up this month?
Below are some ideas to help get you started.
Set and communicate boundaries for your time and energy.
Take, for example, this story of a mother who bakes dozens of cookies every year during the holidays for her friends and family, only to throw half of them away. This year, she could agree to bake only one for each of her immediate family members. What a great example of someone advocating for themselves while still caring for her loved ones. Where can you set a boundary this year, and who needs a heads up?
Keep that word handy.
We can’t control everything that happens during the holidays, but we can be intentional about how we participate. Refer back to your chosen word when approaching events and interactions, and center your intentions to honor it. Just reminding yourself of how you want to experience the season can help you to adjust your course.
Embrace what happens.
No holiday celebration is perfect, and even with the best of intentions things can turn out differently than anyone could have predicted. Look for your word in the present moment, and stay open to discovering it in new ways. You may be surprised to find calm in sitting with a cup of tea while observing the chaos of a family gathering, or jolliness in the laughter after a traditional recipe goes awry. Let the holiday show up for you and reveal itself as its own gift!
What word have you chosen?
Want help finding your word to eliminate the expectations of the Holidays, or perhaps, life in general? We are here to help when you are ready! Learn more about Wellview services HERE
– Heather Fuselier, NBC-HWC, CPT, CRC