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Getting Through the Holidays with Spirit & Grace

by Cassendre Xavier

This isn't your typical "getting through the holidays" article. I won't be sharing quick recipes or tips on how to keep kids busy during festive gatherings with family and friends.

We who are spiritual artists, writers, and healers know that the power of our work is to share our journey, and ourselves, however we feel we are able. We know that reading others' stories has helped us to heal, grow, and continue to exist. So, with the angels' help and guidance, this is the place from which I will share.

A couple of years ago, I realized that it should've come as no surprise that I would someday experience homelessness. I, after all, fit the criteria and have many of the risk factors for it, including: mental illness, being LGBT+, being of color, being female, having a trauma/abuse/dysfunctional family herstory, addiction/compulsive behaviors, and more. These factors also make it more difficult to get through the holidays.

Having the aforementioned issues makes it hard sometimes to get through the holidays for the following reasons, including fractured relationships .

Lots of LGBT+ folks don't have much family of origin they are close to or can spend the holidays with. Many LGBT+ folks were kicked out at an early age, or ran away, or don't have much in common with, or aren't accepted by immediate or extended family of origin. Some are able or sophisticated enough to form family of choice that can last for many years, and some are not.
There are many more examples of this, and other factors that can make the holidays particularly difficult for some. (And let's remember, the holidays are stressful in general, for everyone!)

By "Spirit" I mean, having a spirt-based and spirit-led life, and remembering that practice during the holidays. We can remember and recall Spirit any moment by deep breathing, closing our eyes, calling in the angels ("Angels, please help me!"), affirmative prayer, meditation, being kind to someone, making the loving decision at any moment, journaling, and so -forth. Having a good holiday in spirit means being aware, conscious, and practicing mindfulness as the holidays go by.

By "Grace" I mean using self-care always . In addition to being in spirit, and mindful of others, we can practice grace on ourselves by always looking within, and pausing to see how we feel and what we need at any given moment. If you stop periodically to do this, answers will appear, and they will help to make the next actions easier. Taking good care of yourself will not only help you find the right things to do, places to go, and people to be with, but you will also be a good example demonstrated for others who could also use that lesson. Take wonderful care of yourself, and know that others will be alright. The most important thing you can do during the holiday season, is be kind to yourself.

A) Remember, the holidays are year-round.
While I am writing this in late November and am specifically talking about the winter holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, major holidays happen year-round and can also be challenging in various ways. For instance, I'm sure Halloween is extra difficult for compulsive overeaters whose desire it is to abstain from consuming sugar or other foods not in their acceptable diets of recovery (or "food plans). Same goes for Independence Day - another time of socially permissable , yet recovery smashing gorging or alcohol drinking. Being aware of these challenges early on will help you to avoid or manage them.

B) Know and explore your options.
I learned many years ago that Jewish people go to, or order from Chinese restaurants because these places are usually open during major holidays. (And by "major" I mean
federal holidays.) As a homeless persun, I knew this also, and also availed myself of the subway system, which I would ride for hours at a time to occupy my time. I also visited libraries where I spent peaceful hours using their free wifi.
There are also community centers that hold events during or close to the holiday. These are usually open to the public and free to attend.

C) Accept invitations.
If you have anxiety of any kind, this can spill into and negatively impact your ability to socialize. If friends or non-toxic family members invite you to gather with them during the holidays, examine your feelings, figure out the logistics (for example, will traveling deplete your funds or cause you further stress?) and if practical, and if it feels comfortable in your mind, accept their invitation. It is better during this time to be with loved ones than to be on your own. But if they are toxic for you, it is better to be alone, or around neutral strangers.

D) Don't fear solitude.
Don't be afraid to be alone during the holidays. If you find no options suit you, make special plans to be by yourself. As long as you are safe, you are alright, and taking care of yourself is one of the best feelings in the world!

E) Stay sober!
Whether it's food, alcohol, drugs, sexual or other relationship addictive behavior, make it a goal to remain abstinent during the holidays. One of the best things about the recovery movemnt is that it contains countless tools of recovery and sobriety. An entire worldwide community of people in recovery is available to assist and support you in having one more sober day, and help you keep that up one day at a time. If you are in a 12 Step ("Anonymous") group, consider taking a leadership position and being the persun to lead meetings during the holidays. I remember I did that and twice had an experience that reminded me of the value of service. Once, I led a group on Thanksgiving (by leading I mean to be there to open and set up the meeting, sometimes having a key to the building, etc.). Afterwards, I went home (alone - I lived witha relative at the time, who had gone "home" to be with family of origin for that holiday, which was not a healthy option for me). That evening I was so excited to brag to folks that I had my very first abstinent (where I did not hurt myself with food), Thanksgiving, ever! (Smeone responded to me that I was perhaps the only persun in American who had! Then I remembered that yeah, this is Stuff Your Belly Day of the year. Very normal to overeat!)
The second awesome experience was when I sat in the lobby of a hospital to greet meeting members during another holiday. I was sitting alone, wondering if I would stay alone that night. I was consoling myself that at least I was on my program, and very happy to be having a meeting of one. Shortly thereafter, one of my favorite members of group came bounding in, and she said, "Thank GOD you're here!" We hugged tightly, and had a great meeting of two.
If you are on the reovery path, remember to stay on it during the holidays. Reach out for help and you will find it. Also, I like to remember that often times it isn't about "One Day at a Time." Most of the time for me it's one minute, one second, one breath at a time. Don't be afraid, or ashamed, to reach out for the help you need. It is there for you.

F) Explore different kinds of self-care and self-love.
1) Countless articles out there will tell you to eat healthily, to nurture yourself with proper nutrition, to drink plenty of water, to get enough sleep.
I will add to that the importance of food temperature in nurturing. If you are somewhere cold, eat warm food. For breakfast this morning I had the option of oatmeal or cold cereal. I am having a stressful day and I knew I would need extra nurturing, so I knew that a big bowl of hot nourishing oatmeal would feel much better than cold hard crunchy cereal would (mind the texture of your food, also. Crunchy is good to release anger. Not for engendering a sense of nurturing within yourself if that's what you need.)
2) Do a little organizing. Plan your day. Make daily Things to Do lists. Plan your meals. Make meals in advance. Schedule time with friends/family of choice, etc. Planning and organizing can greatly release stress and help you to have better days, in or out of the holidays.
3) Get therapy. If you aren't already set up to do so, arrange to have individual and/or group psychotherapeutic counseling sessions to help you deal with day to day life. This will come in handy when the holidays come around. Another handy bit about this is that some health centers have special events centered around the holidays, and these will be of extra support to you as well.
4) Explore sensual delights. If you are celibate, you can enjoy hot baths, soft-feeling silky materials to wear as blouses, shirts, scarves, moisturizing your body from face and head to tippy tippy toe. If you are not celibate, enjoy partnersex and "selflove", which are terms sex educator and artist Betty Dodson created many years ago to replace "sex" and "masturbation." In addition to an apple, an orgasm a day also keeps the doctor, and the blues, away!
5) Have handy all the talk therapy and suicide prevention hotline numbers, just in case. Most people are not likely to attemp suicide during the holidays. But many of us do have those thoughts, or "idiations" as the therapists call it, and it's better to talk about it befoore it goes into the planning stages. Thoughts of suicide have been a regular part of my life ever since I can remember (even in childhood). This is understandable and typical of people with trauma plus depression backgrounds. If you have these issues, it is especially crucial to pay attention to your thoughts and have handy these resources in case you need to talk during the holidays.
These people are trained to handle these calls. Sometimes, talking to a friend or family member is not enough.
Another reason to have these numbers handy just in case is because often times people who are having suicidal thoughts do not want to share this with their loved ones, as doing so may worry them. This is another reason to avail yourself of pyshotherapy sessions, also.
Recently, I noticed my suicidal thoughts had gone from the usual amount to more progressed. I spoke about it with both my therapist and my psychiatrist. My therapist and I created a "Safety Agreement." This is a form with both of our signatures and a list of things I can do if I am having suicidal thoughts. Suicide is a very serious issue and is best avoided when we can talk about it at the early stages for some budnippery (nip it in the bud)!
6) Get into the spirit! Even if you just think about angels several times a day, do something spiritual. Other ways of getting spiritual include getting out into nature, from sitting on a park bench to taking a bike ride through a wooded area; doing something kind for a stranger or for anyone at all; engaging in a creative or arts-related activity - arts and crafts, painting, drawing, writing, knitting, crotcheting, singing, playing musicial instruments - all these are ways to communine with the Spirit in you. The more connected to spirit you are, the easier it will be to manage the stress and difficulties of the holidays.

All that I've mentioned here are tools I use on a regular basis just to manage my daily life. Now that it's the holidays and stressors and sadness is somewhat elevated, I pay more attention to some, for instance keeping up with my group therapy appointments, and listening to my music and singing my music whenever I can (if you are an artist, doing your own particular art is very helpful in getting through difficult times).

I hope these techniques will help you also!

Cassendre Xavier has been writing on various topics for Wisdom Magazine since 2009. She is a multi-media healing artist, whose work an calendar you can visit at https://cassendrexavier.wordpress.com

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