Shall we talk a little about gratitude today? Tis the season, at least in the US. (Canadians, please join the discussion with your more temperate perspective, having celebrated weeks ago.)
Here’s what Steve Sando, found of Rancho Gordo Beans has to say about the Thanksgiving holiday, “No presents to buy. A focus on food. Surrounding yourself with people you like. Traditions are celebrated, but most of us leave room for some innovation. What’s not to like?”
He has a point. Several! And of course I listen when the king of beans speaks. However, as a life coach, I often work with people for whom the holidays are hard and gratitude is not the primary emotional experience of the season. These include people who get coaching specifically for the purpose of making it through the holidays.
The reasons are many and often include: A focus on food, which is difficult for some. Being surrounded by people that maybe we actually don’t like. Traditions that don’t leave room for innovation. Plus, no presents.
If your experience coming to the end of the year is anything like, “Ugh the holidays, this is hard, I’m supposed to be soaking in gratitude and I just can’t right now,” here are some thoughts on how to cope.
Unshame your feelings, and give yourself the gift of honesty. Yes, of course, we all know that feeling grateful is what “good people” do. But though feelings can be nurtured, they cannot be forced. And if you are not feeling it, it’s only going to feel worse to pretend.
Here’s a formula for truth-telling that I got from novelist and psychonaut Ayelet Waldman: Put your hand on your heart, and say to yourself, “You poor thing! You are [feeling extremely ungrateful] right now! That’s okay! We’re going to be okay.” Or as self-help guru Mama Gena says: “Any way you feel is a right way to feel.” That’s as good a mantra as I’ve ever found.
Be an ally to yourself as above, but also know you’re not alone. There are 8 billion of us on the planet, and a lot are in forced holiday mode. I bet you can get some solidarity. Friendsgiving thrives for a reason.
And speaking of coping, what is your copium? I see no shame in using what works this time of year: extra Netflix, extra escaping/“taking walks,” extra helpings of wasabi mashed potatoes. If you know what gets you through, use it.
(Also: There’s no shame in hitting the copium at any time of year. Sure, thriving is better than coping. But coping is better than not coping, so. That’s some advanced life coach knowledge for ya!
Sometimes holiday mode imposes so much that we need to dial everything else way down. Again, no shame! Other times it would help to go hard on something. In Wintering, Katherine May writes about her discovery of cold water plunging, and the boost it gives her energy and mood. I have found the same. Cold exposure is obviously not for everyone, but if there’s something you’ve been thinking about trying, this could be your moment. Systems like novelty!
Not to risk sounding all schadenfreude, but some of the folks who seem to be in Super Jolly Holiday mode might actually be struggling a little themselves. If you can’t tell, just mentally extend compassion anyway. (If it’s within reach. Compassion can be easier than gratitude, but not necessarily.)
Finally, maybe Thanksgiving would be better with presents? When I look ahead to my holiday, I think it’ll be good to treat myself to a nice book.
May these suggestions be of use! And I know you all have more. Please add your hard-won seasonal wisdom to the comments below.