We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, sane, and peaceful holiday season.
We’d also like to thank our friend and collegue, Dr. Neill Neill of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, for permission to reprint his thoughts from the following interview by Carrie Powell-Davidson that appeared in the Oceanside, B.C. Star:
Have Yourself a Mellow Little Christmas
We hope that Christmas is a time of joy and happy memories for everyone but the sad truth is, it is not. Many people have experienced the loss of a loved one and celebrating Christmas without them is unbearable. Others may be battling one of life’s challenges such as addiction, illness or poverty and well, their priorities just don’t include a warm and fuzzy holiday. For many of us who work so hard throughout the year, the mere thought of taking on yet another burden like preparing for Christmas is squashing any hopes of a merry ho ho. As retailers and revelers prepare to greet the festivities with open arms, let’s slow it down a notch and have a look at some ways that might help you to relax this season.
- Get rid of the ‘should-“I should have those people over” or ‘You should be happy, it’s Christmas”. None of the things we do at Christmas are a requirement. They are choices so cut yourself some slack and lose the word, ‘should’.
- Recognize and accept the fact that you have feelings. There are bad, sad and mad feelings but they are your feelings and you are allowed to have them. People who are not aware of their feelings are neglecting themselves. They try to act happy and push down what they perceive as negative. Over time, the submerged feelings can fester and cause more serious problems such as over-reactions or illness.
- Don’t try to be politically correct-Say Merry Christmas to someone and mean it. “Do we get offended when a Jewish person says, ‘Happy Hanukkah’?” Dr. Neill asks. “No, I am delighted they have included me in their traditions.” He adds that as long as we’re not hurting anyone, we can keep our own traditions and continue to show a mutual respect for others.
- Enjoy receiving-Do you remember the joy that you have felt when someone you gave a gift to was really appreciative? If we are doing the giving, but can’t receive with grace, then we are robbing someone else of that joy. “Sometimes we get so hung up on giving that we forget there is no giving without receiving.” Dr. Neill says. “When people respond to a dinner invite with ‘next time we’ll eat at our place’ or to a gift with some excuse that their gift is coming, then what we’re really saying is, “we really don’t want to receive, only to exchange.” Just say thank you!
- Breathe deeply-Think of the last time you were falling in love and the big ‘sighs’ you took often. These are sighs of appreciation. Mellow out!
- Stay Present-There’s no drama or stress in the present. Stress comes from looking back at the past or ahead at the future. Meditate, walk or whatever you do to stay in the moment. ‘Present Walks’ are a way that Dr. Neill keeps himself in the present. “I let my eyes go to a tree just ahead and keep them there just long enough to take the tree in. When I get to that tree, I focus on another tree and then another.” He explains that this helps him to see what is around him now so he is not walking in a daze and at the end of the walk, has seen nothing.
- Take lots of appreciation breaks-Stop and think about or look at something you really appreciate. For about 15 seconds, let your mind go to the ocean, the birds outside or your spouse-anything you appreciate. This pulls you very much into the present.
For anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, Christmas can be particularly difficult. Think about creating rituals that acknowledge the lives of those past. This could be anything from hanging a stocking to making a point of talking about them. On Christmas Eve, our family makes a bon fire on the beach and toasts every one who has gone before us.
On a final note, Christmas is a time of excesses. For anyone who is trying to diet, live with a condition such as diabetes, recover from alcohol abuse or balance a stressful relationship, it can be particularly difficult. Do some planning so if things get too difficult for you to handle, you can escape. Perhaps this means going to parties in separate vehicles so if you have to leave, you can. You may need to have an emergency number handy for a close friend on stand by, so when you are at the point of collapse, you can get out before it’s too late.
The bottom line is, “Give yourself permission to do what is right for you.”
You can read more about Dr. Neill’s work at Conquer Alcoholism.
And again, Thanks Neill for another of your “we wish we’d said that” articles.
Not Ready To Change Just Yet?
One of the really basic errors we all make when it comes to changing something in our lives is belief that we have to feel ready. But that’s not true – not even close.
One fundamental part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is learning about the lies we tell ourselves in order to stay stuck right where we are. The “I’m not ready” lie is a big one because, let’s face it, we’re never going to feel ready to change.
But what we feel doesn’t hold up against what we know.
We all know it’s long past time to fix our alcohol problems.
And CBT suggests it’s long past time to make decisions based on what we know, not on how we feel. Do what you know is the right thing and your feelings will follow, albeit probably grudgingly at times.
How does that work in real life? It means we take the steps necessary to create the change without regard to our feelings or excuses.
For example: nearly five years ago when I decided I needed to lose the weight I’d gained after stopping smoking (a long deferred change of my own), Mary Ellen suggested I join a small local training gym.
I didn’t feel like it. But I overrode my feelings, visited the gym, talked to the owner and a trainer and paid the membership fee and 3 months dues.
However, I knew that wasn’t enough. Knowing myself, I knew I’d show up a few times, decide “it wasn’t working” and drop out. So I also paid in advance for 6 months of thrice weekly sessions with the trainer.
The result? I showed up, paid attention, learned, adjusted my life, dropped 30 lbs. of fat and added 7 lbs. of muscle. On-going results? Four years later I’m still going to the gym regularly. And enjoying it.
Moral of the story? Make decisions based on what you know about yourself and your real needs – not your current feelings. Motivate yourself by investing in yourself and good short term help. Track measurable progress. Learn from lapses and mistakes. Create a better life without the fat, or alcohol, or whatever else you want to leave behind.
Need help with that? You know, help is just a phone call away.
Our favorite White Christmas video.
And Brenda Lee with a number of very creative dogs Rock Around the Christmas Tree. Don’t miss it!
And A Bit of Vacation For Us
We’ll be taking time off (December 24-27) to spend with family and friends but Ed will still be answering the phone daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Don’t hesitate to call and make your January reservation.