Kimberly Gardner, MSW, LCSW, LAC
Lead Clinical Supervisor, Intermountain Community Outpatient Services
As the leaves fall to the ground and the frost begins to appear on the branches, we also begin our planning for the next few months and the holidays. It seems that we’ve just gotten our fall routines down to a manageable system and it’s suddenly time to step up the pace and prepare for Thanksgiving and then Christmas. The time between Halloween and New Years can be a blur.
Many families have strong traditions and beliefs about how and when to gather, what the activities should be and how everyone should participate. In all of the hustle and pressure to meet all the demands, we need to be careful to nurture ourselves and the relationships we treasure. Sometimes the holidays are the only time we can be together with those people in our lives that matter the most. And sometimes those gatherings provide us with a new chance to show our gratitude to them, make amends or create a new beginning where healing is needed. This might be the year to challenge the family cultures we’ve embraced and start some new traditions that build on or improve the best of the old ones.
We can easily be distracted by the messages surrounding us to spend too much money on gifts and preparations for all the activities. It’s OK to resist those messages and focus on time with those you care about instead. Remember that “things” aren’t what makes life richer – that’s what relationships are for! This year you might want to choose a new way to enrich those times with friends and family. Look for ways that you can gather with others in more relaxed fashion that will give all of you time to enjoy each other. We might find that the slower pace is welcomed by everyone!
Anticipating the stress and exhaustion of the next few months can be tiring in itself! Consider taking time – right now – to get out your calendars and pencil in some time for fun, rest and self-care. Stock up on healthy foods to help you resist over-eating and block out times to take a walk by yourself or with that friend you’ve been meaning to visit with. Remember when we used to get a note in the mail from a friend? Pencil in some time to send off a hand-written note to someone you haven’t been in touch with and let them know you miss them and care about them. Is there a strained relationship that you’ve been worried about? Consider making an appointment with that person and making repairs and taking time to listen to his or her concerns.
As the pace increases for the events you are involved with, consider delegating some of those tasks to others or inviting them to join you in the work. Making pies with a parents, grandkids, your siblings or neighbors can make for the best memories – and pies! Any kind of activity that brings us together to create something and take time with each other will give us another opportunity to deepen and enrich our relationships. And, when the holidays are over, it will be those kinds of things we all remember. It’s not about the event, it’s about being together and caring for each other.
We all want our families to be stronger and more resilient as they go through the stages of their lives. The holiday season is a fabulous opportunity to create new memories, make stronger connections with those we care about, heal brokenness between us and move into the future together. Regardless of the culture and traditions we have experienced and embraced, we can always take time to reconsider what is of value to us and how we want to be in relationship with each other anew. This is the time to prepare for the opportunity to create joy, spread love, enrich our relationships and refresh our lives. Happy Holidays!
Kimberly Gardner, MSW, LCSW, LAC is the Lead Clinical Supervisor of Intermountain’s Community Outpatient Services. She has worked in the field of children’s mental health and adolescent substance abuse treatment for 35 years and is well known for advocacy for children and families across the state.