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Unwrapping Peace – Gift #4

December 20, 2023

Welcome to my blog series on Unwrapping Peace. The first gift you received was to stop and notice, the second gift was to slow down, and the third gift was to connect. Here is my final gift to you for the season, Grace.

The holiday season can be frantic for both adults and children. There are the usual day-to-day things: school, work, practices, and homework. Then add the school programs to attend, sporting events, holiday events, decorating, baking, and shopping; the to-do list can get pretty long! It can get overwhelming, and we all need to give ourselves a little grace during this time of the year. 

For many years, I would have the stress build up until one little thing went wrong, and I would blow my top. When our children were small, they needed routine. However, that routine sometimes went right out the door during the holiday season. 

When we adopted, our four children came into our home in January. I had high hopes for what Christmas would be like with four young children in our house. Before adopting our children, we had nieces and nephews for Christmas, but this was different. These were our children!

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October; my Christmas looked and felt a whole lot different than the visions I had imagined. I was tired from the chemo treatments, nauseous, and had very little hair. Since I didn’t have the energy to accomplish what I wanted for Christmas, I needed a little grace and self-compassion. 

Researcher Kristen Ness describes self-compassion as giving ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. Neff says, “Self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.”

When you need a little grace and self-compassion:

  1. Practice my first three gifts: stop-notice, slow down, and connect.
  2. Acknowledge that whatever is happening and that you are feeling stress.
  3. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself that others have felt like this before.
  4. Be kind by talking to yourself like a friend would speak to you.
  5. Recognize you need to give yourself grace before giving it to others.

These are the steps to self-compassion.

Author Cyndie Spiegel practices finding small joys throughout her day. Spiegel describes in her book Microjoys that it’s the practice of uncovering joy and finding hope at any moment, especially when unexpected life changes occur. 

The year I was diagnosed with cancer was a whirlwind. Yet after the initial shock of the diagnosis wore off and I could settle into a routine, I looked around, and there were plenty of microjoys in my lifeā€”the kids’ opening packages on Christmas day. The neighbors dropped off goodies and food at our house. The blinking and twinkling lights on the homes as we drove around town. There were many ordinary moments that I accepted with gratitude.

What are the microjoys to notice in your day? The children all dressed for their school concert, the ugly sweaters, the twinkling lights as you drive into town, or the grocery clerk that wishes you a Happy Holidays as you check out. These experiences train your brain to look for the positive and give yourself grace as you move through the season.

I have shared four gifts with you over the past month: stop and notice, slow down, connect, and now give grace; these are all ways you can bring into the season.  

What I haven’t told you is that after my first Christmas with our children and experiencing cancer, I decided to make a New Year’s resolution. The resolution was to make the four strategies I shared with you a gift to myself! I started making them a daily practice. It was challenging, and I needed to pick what worked for me. Early on, it was a 5-minute practice of breathing, saying a prayer during a stressful moment, journaling my feelings and thoughts, or visualizing how I wanted to feel.

My day doesn’t feel right without moving through these four gifts: stop/notice, slowing down, connect, and grace. It’s all a practice of training my brain to look for the positives.

I have learned through my journey with cancer that the true essence of the holiday isn’t in the extravagant decorations or a lavish feast. It’s in the resilience, love, and the community you surround yourself with, especially in the face of unexpected challenges. These are the true gifts you can give yourself and others throughout the holidays and the new year!

Try This:

  • During this season, give yourself grace by practicing the steps to self-compassion. You can practice a self-compassion break using the audio track on Dr. Kristin Neff’s website.
  • Gratitude really does change your brain through the release of dopamine, the pleasure hormone. There are many ways to bring more gratitude into your life. Just name three things you are grateful for in your life right now. 

I am so very grateful to you! Thank you for reading my blog posts! 

Happy Holidays

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