by Dr. Ken Druck, author “Raising an Aging Parent.”
The “holidays” present us with special opportunities to reconnect with loved ones, reaffirm our faith, give thanks, take some time off, reflect, wind down the year and have fun. Work schedules lighten up. Families gather. Parties abound. Gifts are exchanged. Hearts Open. Moved by a heightened sense of what really matters, we sing, dance, pray, party, rest, feast and toast our way into the New Year.
But the holidays can also bring us face-to-face with some daunting emotional challenges. A heartbreaking loss or dose of bad news — or an unwelcome change, threat or stress — can make the holidays a painful and difficult time.
Watching others enjoy “holiday cheer” when we feel there’s little or nothing to celebrate can leave us feeling sad and alone. And when the “holiday spirit” of joy and peace is replaced by “holiday blues” including sorrow, fear, frustration, hopelessness and loneliness, we’re may find ourselves shifting into holiday season survival mode.
Helping ourselves get through the holidays means coaching and taking exceptionally good care of ourselves whether we’re celebrating or grieving. For the past 40 plus years, I’ve been teaching the following self-coaching skills to coaching/consulting clients, readers and audiences who sought to become the better, more self-caring/self-regulating version of themselves.
Whether you’re going through a rough stretch and wanting to turn an adversity into an opportunity, or just want to make the most of what you have, here are ten keys to Self-Coaching that can not only help get you through the holidays, but can guide you to becoming your own best coach and friend:
Self-Coaching Skill #1: Stop and Take Inventory, Get Real and Listen to Yourself
What are you feeling this holiday season? Happy, sad, angry, glad, relieved, scared? Write down each feeling, one by one, on a blank piece of paper. Like all inventory-taking, your success depends on being 100% honest. And being 100% real.
No matter what you’re feeling, that’s your starting place. If you’re feeling sad, a little lost, empty or alone, say so. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling happy, peaceful and like kicking up your heels, say so. Now that you have tuned into and listened to yourself, embrace these emotions without the least bit of judgement, harsh criticism, blame, guilt or shame. Things are the way they are – and feel the way they feel. Accepting our feeling state with patience, understanding, self-compassion allows us to breathe kindness into our hearts – and begin to work on making things better in the days to come.
Self-Coaching Skill #2: Explore the Source of Your Gratitude and Stress
Draw a line down the middle of a blank piece of paper. List at least 10 things you’re most grateful for and excited about, on the left side.
For example, you might write:
Things I am GRATEFUL FOR/EXCITED ABOUT:
- Going to special holiday gathering with family or friends.
- Taking some much-needed time off
- Going on a cruise
On the right side of the page, list 10 things that are weighing most heavily on your heart.
For example, you might write:
Things that are WEIGHING HEAVILY ON MY HEART:
- Worried about my business, marriage, health or kids
- Dreading spending the holidays alone, or with my family
- Sad my kids are spending the holidays with my ex
Get these feelings out where you can see them. Listening intimately to your own heart grounds you in what’s real and alerts you to the priorities that most need your attention. It can also alert you to doing something about those areas that may require mid-course corrections.
Self-Coaching Skill #3: Take a Deep Breath. Breathe in the Strength. Breathe out the Fear
A deep breath sends your body-mind-spirit a message, “Everything’s going to be OK. WE CAN DO THIS! Whether that means getting to the top of the mountain — or up off the floor — it takes one BREATH, and one step at a time. Breathe in the strength. Breathe out the fear. Keep the faith!”
Self-Coaching Skill #4: Take Bold Action Tempered by Self-Compassion
Good results unfold one brave step at a time. Summoning newfound courage, along with fierce determination and sustainable effort are all essential. We’re all works-in-progress. Coaching ourselves through the holidays with all the roadblocks, resistance, detours and traffic jams requires an attitude of calm patience, humility and self-compassion.
Disarming yourself of self-criticism, guilt and shame, and replacing them with understanding, patience and encouragement takes time and effort. Self-compassion and kindness can be the single-most important gift we give ourselves this holiday season. With a combination of bold action and self-support, we grow stronger over time.
Self-Coaching Skill #5: Put Together a Solid Roadmap
Stepping into your best possible future means using your imagination. Imagine yourself looking and feeling great on January 1st, 2020 as the holidays wind down and the New Year begins. You’re lighthearted, proud of yourself, at peace and hopeful for the future. Picture it! SEE IT! Breathe, relax and allow these images to find their way into your imagination, one by one!
Now, think back. “What exactly did I do, or not do, during the holidays to make this happen? How did I take care of myself? Who was an “energy booster”? And who was an energy drain”? What conversations did I have with the people I love? What did I do to love and support myself? Am I thankful for something I did, or did not do? What was it?
Form your answers into a roadmap called “My Roadmap for the Holidays” that describes exactly what you need to do, and not do, to make the holidays what you want them to be.
Self-Coaching Skill #6: Follow the Plan
Keeping your head and heart in the game will require saying “yes” to things that feed you and “no” to seductive distractions that deplete you. Expect them! Stay flexible and allow for changes in your Plan A. Create a backup Plan B if and when it’s necessary. Hold yourself accountable to staying true to yourself and your best interests. Staying the course and perseverance are your best insurance for a good result.
Self-Coaching Skill #7: Forgive, Thank and Bless Yourself
One of the most important steps in coaching yourself through holidays is what happens on January 1st when we can thank, forgive and bless ourselves for doing the very best we could under the circumstances.
Things are not going to go perfectly this holiday season. No matter how much work you do on yourself, how good your plan is or how loving other people may be towards you, something unexpected is probably going to happen. That may be the cause of disappointment, sorrow, frustration, stress and/or confusion.
Receiving gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgement for your efforts and good results, sets the stage for doing even better next time. Reflect non-critically about ways you can and will want to do better in the future.
Life is going to be…life. We don’t get to control everything. We live in a world in which there is pain and suffering. And we are not exempt. The sooner we come to terms with this, the more peace, humility and gratitude we can begin to cultivate.
Self-Coaching Skill #8: Give Selflessly of Yourself
The spirit of the holidays is, and has always been, giving. Not just material gifts, but of ourselves. Compassion, empathy, understanding, philanthropy, love and forgiveness are the true currency of life, not money or material gifts. Counting our blessings and paying them forward also makes the world a better, more peaceful place.
Self-Coaching Skill #9: Debrief After the Holidays
January is the perfect time to pinpoint how you can do even better in the future. While things are still fresh in your mind, ask yourself, “In a perfect world, what could I have handled better? What would I do differently to insure a better result? What did I learn this holiday about taking better care of myself? Note these things down in a letter to yourself. Open that letter in September or October of next year to refresh your memory.
Self-Coaching Skill #10: Rest, Rejuvenate and Relax
The hard work is done! You have done your best to set the stage for the holiday season. Now it’s time to rest and relax. Surrendering control, letting ourselves be supported by the people around us; the earth beneath us, the air we breathe and the good in the world, can be replenishing. Allow yourself a few moments of well-deserved rest and relaxation. Let go! And breathe!
Self-Coaching Skill #11: Define Your Vision for Success in 2020
If 2020 turns out to be one of your best years ever, how does it unfold? Set aside a time and a place to create a vision for 2020 filled with all the things that bring you great joy, and that have been holding you back from greater happiness and satisfaction. Get your life organized, priorities straight and focused on the things that really matter. Free yourself of self-sabotaging “demons” and feel more deeply into the heartbeat and rhythms of your own life. Take inventory of how to bring out the best in yourself in 2020 and start doing it!
Copyright Dr. Ken Druck
Ken Druck, Ph.D., is an internationally known speaker, coach and consultant and best-selling author of books including “The Real Rules of Life,” “Courageous Aging,” and “Raising an Aging Parent.” Connect with Dr. Ken’s Facebook community.