Lifestyle

A Holiday Season Full of Challenges Needs a Saving Grace

By Chuck Norris

As I write this, Thanksgiving is just days away and will have passed by the time you read this. Know that my wife Gena and I are wishing and hoping for a great time for you and yours during this special day that traditionally launches the holiday season.

It is a day set aside for celebration and togetherness, a reprieve from the daily grind and for giving thanks. It also tends to arrive with lots of expectations. And for many folks, the holidays in general equate to lots of pressure and, “as those pressures rise so do feelings of stress,” notes Autumn Walker in a recent holiday post for mental health provider Lyra Health.

According to the Lyra report, financial stress is a commonly shared state of mind during the holidays. “Research on holidays and mental health finds 68% of people feel financially strained, 66% feel lonely, and 63% feel under pressure during this time of year,” writes Walker, who holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Johns Hopkins University. “The holidays (seem) to start sooner every year, we may experience stress, holiday anxiety, or holiday depression because we’re chasing a target that feels like it’s always moving,” she adds, ending with an important piece of advice: “Be kind to yourself during the holidays.”

“We’re often our harshest critics, which can fuel isolation, avoidance, and self-judgment as we strive to meet unrealistic expectations or take care of our own needs,” Walker warns.

According to a USA Today report, “The prevalence of anxiety has skyrocketed in the U.S. over recent years, affecting more than a third of adults every year,” writes USA Today’s Adrianna Rodriguez. Today, it is considered high among the most common mental illnesses in the country.

While anxiety is natural, ingrained and a normal reaction to stress, danger or something new, “society has taught Americans that anxiety is unnatural, and this idea makes them less amenable to tolerate being uncomfortable. Their fears are greater than the actual threat,” writes Rodriguez, citing Dr. Justin Kei, medical director for outpatient behavioral health services for Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

David Rosmarin, the founder of the Center for Anxiety, agrees with this assessment. “We have to stop getting rid of our anxiety and change our relationship with it instead,” he says. The USA Today report goes on to say that experts now believe that today’s modern era has bred anxiety, not just in the technologies developed but also in what we value. In this and other advanced societies, we “consistently” reward “external success such as fame and fortune” but fail to “reward internal successes like self-development, emotional stability, and other less publicly perceivable goals,” writes Rodriguez.

Rosmarin argues that this has “led many to chase accolades at risk of genuine personal growth, fueling anxiety and diminishing self-worth when those sometimes unrealistic expectations aren’t met.” Consequently, young people, who are typically at the start of their careers, today are more likely than older adults to experience anxiety. According to a KFF Health analysis, “federal survey data showed that 50% of people 18 to 24 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2023 … compared with 29% of people 50 to 64 and 20% among those 65 and older.”

Rebecca Ruiz is a former editor at NBC News Digital and current senior reporter at Mashable, an online news website whose primary focus is on technology, lifestyle and entertainment news. In a recent post, she writes that “in our search for calm and stability during a hellish time, perhaps no mantra stands out as more comforting than ‘give yourself grace.'” It is your “antidote to the blues.” “Give yourself grace is permission to forgive your mistakes, lapses in judgment, and hurtful behavior, because no one is perfect,” she adds. “Give yourself grace is a saying that has deep roots in yoga and faith communities,” she reports.

This important piece of advice about giving yourself grace and permission to forgive your mistakes frequently shows up online as a hashtag or inspirational quote. For example, scripture says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” On Instagram, “the combination of #grace and #giveyourselfgrace had more than 400,000 uses over just a few months during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020,” reports Ruiz.

“Grace giving should involve more than putting yourself at ease,” she says. “It should also prompt some form of action, whether that’s self-care, repairing a damaged relationship, or taking responsibility for your choices. … Grace isn’t an excuse for feeling less inner or interpersonal conflict but an opportunity to be kind to yourself.”

Finding a sense of grace might seem difficult for folks out there struggling to get through the holidays. But I ask you to please consider looking for opportunities to share a smile with others, even strangers. It may seem like a small gesture. It might even make you uncomfortable, but remember emotions are contagious, and as the adage says, “Smile, and the world smiles with you.”

According to Elizabeth Millard, a freelance journalist specializing in health, wellness, fitness and nutrition writing for verywellmind.com, research shows that “the physical act of smiling not only created internal positive feelings, but also caused participants to see the world around them in a more positive way.” Adds Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, “The power of positive behavior, expectation, and mindset is not to be underestimated.”

I’m a big believer that small changes may result in big effects. Put on a happy face and see what happens.

Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2023 CREATORS.COM

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