Surviving the Holidays with Grace
Surviving the Holidays with Grace

As we move into Fall, and the holiday season, many people fill with dismay and dread. What could be a glorious time of connecting with family, standing before God with gratitude for all of His blessings, purifying our heart through Advent, and celebrating the birth of our Savior with our human and church families, often devolves into stress, exhaustion and family strife.How do we as Orthodox Christians keep this from happening?  I think we first have to tease out the different elements of this process. There are several. For many people, the holidays bring back very painful memories of growing up with alcoholic parents who destroyed family gatherings with drunken, embarrassing and often violent behavior. Even if we think we have put these traumatic memories firmly behind us, our souls still cringe and a dark cloud descends upon us as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach. We want them over quickly. If this is the case with you, you are not alone. This is a good time to get trauma oriented psychotherapy, if you have not already done so. Talk therapy is not enough by itself to heal the deep, lasting wounds such memories can bring. EMDR and somatic psychotherapy are two approaches that can fairly quickly bring deep relief. Joining an ACA 12-Step meeting and talking about it is also helpful, as is sharing these feelings with your spouse and priest.Some of us still have family members who create chaos around the holidays. This is a time to figure out how to set appropriate boundaries, and use creative problem solving strategies. Think outside the box!  Our guilt and shame may tell us that we just have to put up with disruptive behaviors, but that is not true. Getting support from Alanon and related programs can help us find that lie between healthy love, and destructive co-dependency.Some of us fall prey to the belief that we have to create picture perfect dinners and memories for our families, and churches. This puts undue stress on ourselves and often leads our children to hate the holidays because they are no longer fun. Please remember that the point is fun, celebration and intimacy, not perfection or competition. If you identify some of these motivations, pause, pray, and let go. Sometimes they are bigger than us, and need to be taken to confession, so we can avail ourselves of God’s healing grace. Pacing our energy, along with our budget can make all the difference.Remembering to eat healthy food and keep blood sugar stable is also crucial. Eating forms of Lenten protein every 4 hours can also help prevent relapse into addictive behavior as does eating protein before going to a high risk party or gathering. Have an exit plan ready if going off the wagon with either alcohol or sugar becomes too tempting, and use the appropriate amino acids to keep your neurotransmitters stable.Above all, call upon the Lord and His Mother for joy, peace and wholeness whenever you can. I wish you many blessings for a lovely holiday season.

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St. Ephraim Center is a first-of-its-kind, Orthodox Christian treatment group based in Colorado. We offer addiction and mental health treatment, mental health nutrution services, and addictions and mental health education. The Center supports and strengthens the Orthodox Church through education and effective, Christ-centered addictions treatment for Orthodox clergy and laity. With growing services and nationally recognized staff, we are here to help.


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