The end of the year is always a busy and joyful time with Thanksgiving and Christmas and friends and parties and family get togethers. The streets and stores are crowded, there are festive lights, music, and decorations everywhere you go, and there is the anticipation of upcoming celebrations. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say.
Unless it isn’t.
What if your holidays are being spent alone? Or with the feeling of loneliness, even when you are surrounded by people? What if you are in the middle of a difficult or painful time and jolliness is the furthest thing from your current reality? Oh, I have had holiday seasons like that, and it is the worst.
If this is where you’re at this season, take some time to focus on ways to make the most of this challenging time. You can still make wise choices and find a measure of peace even if your current situation is not your ideal. James tells us in the first chapter of his book in verses 3 and 4, to count it all joy when we face trials since these tests will grow our faith and mature us. Obviously, we won’t feel joy during trials, but we can be assured that they have a good purpose in our lives if we persevere through them. Here are 7 easy ideas to proactively face the coming days with hope instead of dread:
- Look at your calendar. Are there things you can avoid if busy-ness is stressing you out? Take action today. Re-schedule or cancel what is not absolutely necessary.
- Or, if the opposite is true — if you wish you had more things on your calendar this season – be proactive! Look online for events that interest you happening in your city. Attend activities at your church, or other local churches, that you normally wouldn’t attend. Sometimes bookstores have special events scheduled this time of year. Take some time to look around and see what’s available, you might be pleasantly surprised!
- Schedule some time for self care. Take a long walk or go for a bike ride. Take a nap or get a massage. Treat yourself to a new candle or lotion or bath soap in a scent you enjoy.
- Call someone. Take a chance. Invite a friend to see a matinee movie or join you for coffee or lunch.
- Schedule time to bolster your internal world of thoughts and emotions. What uplifts you or inspires you? A new book? A live performance? A new Bible study focus? Trying out a new recipe? Start today!
- Schedule 20 minutes to think. This sounds ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is. Turn off your phone. Get comfortable. Get a paper and pen (not your computer!), and sit quietly. Jot down ideas of things you’d like to improve, or change, or learn in the coming new year. You are worth the effort.
- Divide a sheet of paper into two vertical columns. In one column, make a list of your skills and abilities; both your natural giftedness and any training you have received. In the second column, make a list of things you care about and are thankful for.
As this year draws to it’s close, begin to think about ways that you can use your gifts and talents to make an impact on the people you care about or the things you are thankful for. Let the purpose of your self reflection be to move forward through difficult emotions and situations with an eye to the happier days ahead that are surely coming! As Psalm 30:5 reminds us, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Who you are, what you’ve been given, and what you care about are all keys to understanding how to invest your time for maximum fulfillment. God has created you exactly the way you are, in His image, for the great good that you can contribute to this world! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.
This might not be your season to be jolly, but it can be a season of growth and a step forward into the plan God has for your future.