“Oh, that’s right. Next week is Thanksgiving.”

Pause and audible sigh followed by laugh. This scene happened multiple times in my office this week.

Polarized thoughts and emotions were as plentiful as pumpkin pie PRE-COVID. But in 2021 the holiday season has the ongoing additional spice of anxiety about infections, nervous system activation as our bodies adjust to being with others, and dread of discourse.

Can I get a show of hands of people who have parts literally considered hibernating until January 2, 2022?

Does it have to be this way? Perhaps one of the gifts of the last two years is that our unconscious patterns have been disrupted.  Here are some strategies to help you create a holiday you choose and build your holiday survival kit.

  1. Get clear about your expectations. One of the stressors of the holiday season is the multitude of expectations for what the holiday should be. From Hallmark movies to Norman Rockwell paintings, many of us have stories about the holidays. Although these stories can be helpful, they can also lead us to develop hidden expectations. When your lived experience doesn’t fit with your story or your expectations, blaming ourselves or others often abounds. After all, an expectation can be a premeditated resentment. Especially if you are returning to or seeing folx you haven’t in sometime, hidden expectations can visit. What can you do? Spend ten to fifteen minutes free-writing or listing your expectations for the holiday.
  2. Release your expectations. Easier said than done, right? One strategy to release them is to honor your longings and invite your Higher Power in…you can place your list in a special box or container that represents the Divine. You could burn your list and imagine the spoke wafting to the heavens. You could carry your list with you, and when you notice your body reacting, simply touch the list and invite your Higher Power to help you ease the feeling. The key is to honor your expectations and offer them to a Source that is bigger than you.
  3. Set an intention for your holiday. Your intention can be an anchor to help you return to yourself and your Higher Power. How do you want to engage others this holiday season? What word or phrase comes to mind? You can write your intention on a sticky note and carry it with you. You can take a picture of something that represents your intention and make it the lock screen on your phone. Emily and Amelia Nagoski give a practice for living with an intention by “redefining winning.” Your intention is a new goal–one that is achievable and meaningful to you. Between now and January 2, 2022, commit to reading or focusing on your intention at the beginning of each day.
  4. Write yourself a permission slip. Brene Brown writes about the value of giving yourself permission. Giving yourself permission provides space—space for your humanity and others. What permission do you need to grant yourself? Do you need permission to say no to an event, to leave a dinner early, to feel your feelings? The list goes on and on. In addition to your intention, write yourself a permission slip. Hang it up in a place where you see it daily.
  5. Find a bookend buddy. In times of stress, we can forget that we are not alone. A bookend buddy is a friend that can commiserate with you as well as remind you of your intentions and your permission slip. Before going to a dinner, event, or weekend that pokes and provokes you, connect with your bookend buddy. Share your intention and your permission slip with them. After the event, check back in. Let your buddy know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

These practices and more are what we will be exploring in the Well’s Virtual Burnout Book Club. We’ll be reading, embodying, and supporting one another to live differently this holiday season. Let us help you build your holiday survival kit. Join us.