Tag Archives: Compassion

Managing the Holidays – with a Smile!

The holidays are upon us! Maybe that is a happy time , with lovely gatherings, meals, parties and joy. But maybe it means tension, anxiety, depression, even dread. Holidays often mean family gatherings, traditions you may or may not like, encounters with relatives you’re not interested in seeing, expensive travel, a sense of obligation to buy gifts, spend money you’d rather not, maybe even enduring events that feel atrocious.

How do you manage all of this – and still have a smile? Here are some keys you can use right away: 

One – be honest with yourself and don’t blame or shame yourself for any of your feelings. Whatever you are feeling is grounded in some experience from your history that is causing the negative or positive reaction. Many families experience friction and fragmentation as children grow into adults, older adults grow less adaptable or tolerant, or people change and grow apart. It can feel very sad to experience a transition from what you remember in your youth to what presents itself as your family in your adulthood. Be compassionate and loving with yourself. Accept your feelings as your authentic experience. Your feelings do not have to make sense to anyone but you. 

Two – Be like an investigative reporter before you commit to something. Find out who is coming to the gathering, where, when and how it is happening. Assess for your own happiness how much exposure you can handle at a time. It is perfectly all right for you to have limits for how much you can handle or want to try to. 

Three– Say Yes when you mean it, and No when you need to.  Don’t agree to stay at an event for hours if you know you will only be able to be pleasant for and hour or two – even half and hour! Make it a drop-by for a brief appearance if you know you can’t handle more. For whatever the reasons are that you will not feel happy or comfortable, you do not have to endure encounters that make you miserable. 

Fourth – Set reasonable limits for yourself on how much you do, how much you spend, how much you eat, with whom you spend time. This is your life, your time, your happiness. Only you can know what are the ingredients that will add up to a more pleasant, even happier, memorable holiday season.

Five – Make your own “family.” If you don’t have the family you wish you had to spend holidays with, seek out others who are also on their own. Plan your own holiday celebration with your favorite foods, decorations, activities, and invite others whose company you enjoy. You are absolutely not the only one who isn’t going to be with a picture perfect family for the holidays.

Six – Give of yourself to others in need. The best way out of your own troubles or sorrow is to be of service to others. Give of yourself to others. Find local churches, shelters and community organizations that feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, gift children. It is remarkable to feel how meaningful your attention and energy can be to someone who has far less. 

Seven – Practice gratitude. Find anything and everything in your life you have to be grateful for: health, friends, work, hobbies, finances, location, significant other, the Sun and the Moon, your own determination. Start your day with a list “Today I am grateful for” and find five things – no matter how big or small.  What you see becomes more of what you see. When you find things to feel grateful for, more things will come into your life for which you will feel truly grateful!





The Light at the End of the Tunnel


The Light at the End of the Tunnel.

When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is not beneficial to go out and build more tunnel.

-Neale Donald Walsh

You know that feeling. “ The light at the end of the tunnel” feeling.

Something in your life unfolded that felt daunting, so big,  it felt even insurmountable.  Even so, you kept going, you persevered, you kept pushing forward, unwilling to give up, unwilling to go backward . You may have felt at times like you weren’t moving forward. But you kept going , in some way, in any way.

Then it happened: you saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is a universal kind of experience.  It may even be necessary as a part of the training ground that Life provides us.  Experience unfolds and you have another opportunity to grow in personal capacity for strength, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness.

When you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel you may get really excited. You may think. “ Oh, it is possible! I can make it! I can recover! I can feel better, find a better job, find another relationship, find a healthier relationship, make more money etc.”

What often happens under the surface, though, is that you get scared. You’ve been in that tunnel. It was dark. It felt long. At some point, feeling the struggle came to feel familiar. You became accustomed to  seeing what is wrong. You were in a state of seeing the problems rather than the solution.

So when you actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, when it seems possible that things may actually work out, you unconsciously start building more tunnel. You find more problem. You find more of what’s not working so you can stay in that state. Internally, your familiar state is extremely powerful and doesn’t want to change. It tells you “ Change is SCARY.” You end up building more tunnel.

This all makes perfect sense. You may have been taught to be a tunnel builder all your life.  It certainly feels familiar to me.  That is how I heard my parents thinking. “There is not enough.” “There may not be enough.” “ That is not a good decision because…” No, you cant’ do that because …” More tunnel that always kept the dream far away was pattern. It was a constant.

What gets repeated the most is what becomes familiar. What feels familiar is what gets internally perceived as safe. What feels familiar feels safe even when, from an outside perspective, one can see that it is not good for you. If seeing problem is the repeated pattern, that becomes the familiar way of being. It becomes the habituated way of being. Without realizing it, you think in terms of problem rather than in terms of solution. That keeps building more tunnel.

Habit is only habit.  It is not law. Any thought can become a habit if repeated enough. Any behavior can become a habit if repeated enough. Any habit, no matter how detrimental to you, can come to feel familiar, and therefore safe. When building more tunnel has become your habit, that is what feels safe. That is how you internally, unconsciously, keep yourself “safe.”

A habit, any habit, has been learned. It is a learned behavior and learned behavior can be changed.

I do not believe that your behavior is “who you are.” Behavior is simply behavior. It has been learned in response to the environment and can be changed. Behavior and consciousness are not the same thing.

 Do you want to reach the end of the tunnel? Do you want to come out into the light to see what new world lies there for you? Do you want to see the fruit of your positive intention? That requires consciousness. That requires character. That is who you are.

You must allow yourself to fight against the familiar and push outside of your comfort zone. You must stretch. You must push hard against the pattern, against the familiar, stretch hard to push through the forcefield of “safety” to break free into the new.

In Star Trek they would go to Warp speed to break out of the hold of normal time and space, get out of the reach of the enemy of the zone of destruction. Figuratively, you can do the same thing. It may even feel just as difficult at first. But when you take that giant push to propel yourself through the hold of the familiar, you land in new territory and new possibility.

Love yourself on the journey. Be compassionate with yourself and applaud your efforts! Be willing and keep moving forward. There is light at the end of the tunnel and you will approach it with more ease and more grace with every effort. You can do this and you will. I believe in you. 

Kathryn Tull, M.A., MFT

Compassionate Conversation with Kathryn Tull is coming To UBN Radio!!!
Wednesday, April 10 at 11am