Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! This is usually accompanied with lights, music, parties, tinsel and glitter. NOT EVERYONE FEELS LIKE THIS during the holidays and some even want to hide from it all. There are many reason for this: death of a loved one, loss of a job and income, chronic illness including addictions and depression, memories of past hurtful holidays and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and those around us. We feel the darkness growing deeper around us. We need encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
Are we "not normal" if we can't join in the festivities and be joyful and merry? No! However you are feeling and however you are dealing with the holidays may be the best you can do at this time. Take a deep breath, close your eyes for a few seconds and accept your current situation. Then take inventory of your situation and your feelings and your resources for coping. You may need to make a list so that you can refer back to it and add to it as necessary.
Re-evaluate what you can handle comfortably even if this means making changes in traditions and rituals. Maybe the shopping will have to be curtailed, the cards not sent this year - or sending a short note instead explaining why you aren't up to the usual. Baking and decorating may not happen at all or be reduced in quantity. The lights and the added sugars may contribute to the depression and loneliness rather than lift your spirits.
Some ideas that have helped others:
- Plan ahead - consider ahead of time what may be expected of you both socially and emotionally and how you can adjust these expectations.
- Trim down to essentials - limit social and family commitments to suit your available energy. Re-evaluate priorities and forego unnecessary activities and obligations.
- Accept your limitations - holidays place additional demands on time and emotions.Plan to lower your expectations to accommodate current needs.
- Make changes - alterations in surroundings, rituals and traditions will diminish stress.
- Ask for and accept help - allow those who care about you to offer their support in concrete ways. Be specific about your preferences and desires.
- Build in flexibility - you are the foremost authority on what is best for you and your needs and these may change from day to day. Take each moment as it comes.
- Give yourself permission "to be" - allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective. Not only is life more complicated, but all energy is siphoned into mental and emotional resolution.
Some churches have a "Dark Christmas" or "Blue Christmas" service during Advent to support people who are having a hard time coping with the holidays, depression and grief. An evening of prayer, scripture, communion, and music that acknowledges that God's presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle, for those who grieve - and that God's Word comes to shine light into our darkness. This is very healing and there are several resources for developing this service, including Episcopal Health Ministries and other internet services.
Remember - "our capacity to love holds hands with our capacity to cry. There's something sacred about sorrow, about loss, about the fact that joy is always braided with a certain quiet sadness. It's there to remind us of our true home, which is and always has been within the heart of God. It's a home from which we can never be separated.
(Marilyn Morgan Helleberg, Daily Guideposts 7/27/00)
2016 Episcopal Health Ministry Conference
"Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"
Celebrating 20 Years of EHM
September 15 - 17, 2016
The Jean Denton Keynote Address
Rev. Melford E. (Bud) Holland Jr.
Bud has been assisting groups and individuals to understand more fully the complexities of transitons and their gifts and assets to work effectively within them. Bud was involved in the early organization of National Episcopal Health Ministries. He has worked with dioceses, the wider church, urban to suburban congregations, and groups that were seeking to discover new ways in their work, and individuals seeking to stregthen their vocations. Bud affirms and encourages others in their work.
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church
1402 West Main Street
Carmel, Indiana, 46032
Homewood Suites by Hilton at Keystone Crossing
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From time to time EHM will be inviting people to be a guest blogger. Before Advent starts please enjoy a blog by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, creator of Living Compass:
I believe that one of the core components of living a holy life, a life characterized by wellness and wholeness, is learning to delay gratification. Perhaps one of the clearest ways to understand this is to consider how easy it is to compromise our wellness by seeking immediate gratification. Eating whatever we want, whenever we want, will negatively affect our physical wellness. Reacting immediately when were are flooded with anger will almost always compromise both our emotional and our relational wellness. Giving in to the urge to buy more all the time rather than learning to save will compromise our financial wellness. Seeking quick and easy answers from God to our prayers and questions rather than learning to rest and “trust in the slow work of God” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) will diminish our spiritual wellness.
At the heart of learning to delay gratification is learning to practice patience. In a culture that glorifies immediate gratification, learning to wait is countercultural. This makes practicing patience a perfect practice for Advent, because observing the season of Advent itself is countercultural. Our culture’s emphasis on immediate gratification increases tenfold as we rush full-speed ahead into the Christmas season. We are encouraged to give into all of our impulses to eat more, do more, drink more, and buy more this time of year. The season of Advent provides us with the space we need to make countercultural choices, choices that will help us prepare for the true meaning of Christmas.
One place to start is practicing patience is with ourselves. If we are loving and gracious with ourselves, that is likely how we will be with others. If we are critical and judgmental of ourselves, that is likely how we will be toward others. The same is true with being patient. The degree to which we are patient with ourselves is likely the degree to which we will be patient with others. It is hard to give others what we cannot give ourselves. The timeless wisdom in the calling to love our neighbors as ourselves reveals that this is exactly what we do when we treat our neighbors the same way we treat ourselves.
One of the foundational principles of our Living Compass Wellness ministry is, “Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow.” If we pay more attention to what annoys us about ourselves or someone else, then our impatience with ourselves or that other person will grow. If, instead, we pay more attention to what is good and what we appreciate about ourselves or someone else, then our patience with ourselves or that other person will grow. We invite you to practice paying attention to what delights you about yourself and others, and then see if your patience grows.
During the holiday season, when emotions tend to run high, we may find ourselves being irritable or short with those close to us. We may also have opportunities to practice patience with friends and family members who we don’t see that often. When we feel that others are trying our patience, it is wise to remember that “Whatever we pay attention is what will grow.” The choice to practice patience this Advent season (or not) is ours.
This information was passed on to me from Margaret Williams in Midland Texas. It is exciting to see what people are doing with their ministries:
Right now, St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church occupies a lot of my time. I am one of the two parish nurses. Parish nurses consult with patients, answer questions, visit sick parishioners, conduct educational programs, and accompany patients to the hospital for procedures when requested. I also
sing in the choir almost every Sunday. The Jubilee Center also takes a lot of my time. I participate in food distribution activities twice a month, and am available as a nurse to answer questions and provide advice should anyone get sick. I serve as chairman of the board for the Jubilee Center.
See more of the article and what her community has to say about her at:
As college students are going back to school and new students are entering here is some valuable information on the Top 5 Mental Health Challenges that are affecting our youth:
Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on mental health on college campuses shows that:
One in four students have a diagnosable illness
40% do not seek help
80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
50% have been so anxious they struggled in school
While there are certainly growing concerns over other mental health issues affecting college students today, this article covers the prevalent issues of depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and addiction. The guide is not a substitute for treatment, but it will help you find resources that lead to a happier and healthier college career.