As the Holidays of harvest and light approach with the opportunity for friends and families to gather, the question arises of how to spend the holidays. So let us each take a pause now and reflect on what we most value about the coming weeks and months. Is it most important to connect with others? To catch up on rest and relaxation? To have an adventure somewhere new or return to a tradition? To share gifts, food, songs, connect with familiar religious practices?
Regardless of what we most value at this time, we have the chance to reflect, gain clarity, communicate and intentionally create the conditions to make the outcomes we seek most likely to happen.
One simple action to improve the holiday season
A simple exercise is to take a sheet of paper and draw 8 squares. In each box write something you hope for the holidays. Possibilities might include:
- Have intentional time together with family
- Rest and relax
- Go somewhere new/do something new
- Plan time for the holiday traditions enjoyed in the past.
- Be outside
- Get caught up on work, clean the house, work on the yard
- Connect with friends old and new
Cut out the 8 squares. Put them in order of importance for you from most important to least. You are not saying numbers 7 and 8 are not important, they are just not as important for you as numbers 1 and 2.
Because it is unlikely you will get all of the outcomes you want, take away three squares. Now take away two more. What three are left?
Now include your family or friends
If you are coordinating with family or a group of friends, create the original list with them in mind. After you have done the exercise for yourself, have everyone in the group do the exercise. Share your top three priorities. Discuss what each means to you, and how you might see those priorities coming to be. There is no right or wrong. This is simply an exercise to get everyone thinking and discussing.
It is especially important to help children and youth participate in this planning. They may need help thinking about ideas or writing down their choices. This reflects an important part of therapeutic services with youth at Taos Behavioral Health (TBH). Recognizing feelings and making choices are the foundations of enhanced mental health
Getting a clear sense of what you really want
Very often we have hopes, expectations and needs that are not fully conscious but that actually are important and motivate us. If these are not realized, we may be disappointed, sad or angry — and not understand why. If we can be deliberate in making our choices conscious, specific, and communicated, we have a better chance of feeling more satisfied, renewed and resilient. This gives us a sense of greater control over our life and contributes to good mental health.
A foundation of social and emotional wellbeing is having the skills and abilities to a) recognize feelings and thoughts in yourself and others, b) analyze a situation, c) communicate, d) plan action and e) have a sense of power to make decisions and act on issues important in your own life. Planning the holidays is good practice in these skills for all of us. Developing these skills contributes to greater peace internally, interpersonally and in our communities.
A gift to us all
Enjoy becoming more aware, communicating with hope and intention, thinking creatively, and taking new actions. Thus we can continue to co-create a life that brings joy to yourself and others and contributes to a more just and peaceable world.
TBH has the largest licensed and credentialed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at 105 Bertha in Taos for scheduled appointments, at 575-758-4297 or www/taosbehavioralhealth.org.
Amy McConnell, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist, a licensed mental health counselor and a member of the TBH Board.