Maybe it's the holidays (the most wonderful-ly stressful time of the year) or maybe it's just the anticipation of the coming new year. Perhaps it's just life, and I've simply taken more notice. In any case, anxiety seems to be all around me lately. Worry over events yet to happen in my own life. Concerns from friends over relationships and futures. Family struggles with new and ongoing issues. Even Sadie, our ever-happy 9 year old pup, seems to have some stress. (That may be from her recent experience that led to the cone of shame...sap in the fur.)
It, all of it, can feel overwhelming. It can feel hopeless. And it can certainly feel never-ending. But that's where hope can come in because the stress, the situation, the pain, the fears, the anxiety...it all does change, stop, or take a break. Hanging on until that happens, though, can be tough.
It seems we all have grateful and blessed hearts at Thanksgiving. We see the daily posts of things people are thankful for. Then Black Friday comes, and the magic spirit from the day before seems to quickly fade to...well, black. Stress kicks into high gear. The holiday season, which should be a source of joy and goodwill, is widely acknowledged as the peak of depression and anxiety. Maybe we need to continue our thankful posts through the holiday season. Maybe we need to reread what we wrote. Or maybe we just need a shift in perspective.
I had a dear friend recently give birth to a handsome little man. Her pregnancy and delivery served as a great reminder to me of the emotions I went through just over a year ago. The overpowering worry that plagued me on and off throughout pregnancy disappeared when I got to hold my little girl. Gratitude washed away all concern. Until we got home, and then the late night feedings reignited my Googling and, subsequently, my anxiety. The things that once seemed dire were no longer a part of my life, but their rapid exit left space for new concerns to set up shop. Being a new mom was such a duality of feelings: joy and helplessness. And perhaps that is what happens during this season. What got me through those early challenges is the same thing I've been doing to help myself and others who have been dealing with some discomfort this year: encouragement. Encouragement through listening, kind words, advice when appropriate, displays of love, and prayer. Encouragement to enhance the joy. Because enough joy can start to shine light on the shadows. Perhaps that is why one of the most recited verses of the season is from the angel sent to dispel worry, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy".
So let me encourage any of you who may be experiencing a less than holly-jolly season. Direct your focus and energy on those people and things that enhance your joy. Remove those that remind you of the stress or the anxiety. In the immortal words of Clark W. Griswold, "I hope it enhances your holiday spirit". Whatever "it" may be for you.