Safe Harboring the Holidays by 2018 Boston Alum, Ryan Sudbey

Safe Harboring the Holidays

The smell of snow has a uniqueness to it the days before Christmas, there is a sense of tense anticipation for the holiday to come and bring with it all it means. For some, that brings joy, cheer, camaraderie, and all the things people love about the holidays. There are many who find it to be stressful, overwhelming, and triggering. No matter which side you fall on, or if you land somewhere in the middle, one of the things that are most forgotten in this whirlwind is taking space for self-care. In our frantic holiday pace, we are too willing to leave the habits of nurturing ourselves behind and can find ourselves victim to challenges that haven’t plagued us for some time. I know that for myself, the holiday holds the dangers of dwelling on “failed” relationships, an overwhelming sense of inadequacy to everyone I know, among many other things. If I let myself lose sight of my self-care, if I let go of holding compassion for myself, I know that I fall quickly to the darker side of things. What was once a pebble, becomes a boulder, then a mountain. So instead, I am choosing to challenge myself, and I challenge you, dear reader, to the following Holiday Season challenge:

  1. When things go wrong, take a deep breath and don’t take it personally.

Bad things happen to us all the time, but when we come from an unbalanced state and try to deal with them, they become much harder to manage successfully. This isn’t happening to you because you’ve been an awful son/daughter/mother/father/spouse/friend (etc.), this is happening simply because it did. I think that it would be unreasonable to expect ANYTHING to go perfectly right, so anticipating something as complex as the holiday season is holding an unrealistic expectation that only harms you.

2. Allow yourself to feel any way you need to about the holidays.

Some people love the lights this time of year, some people hate it. Some love all the holiday movies, some get nauseous as soon as they hear that jingle. Whatever way you lean, don’t berate yourself for having your feelings not match what you think you should feel. It’s okay to hate the holidays. It’s also okay to be vulnerable and allow yourself to love them.

3. Don’t let that person ruin your holiday.

I don’t know who it is, or when it will be, but there will almost definitely be someone who feels the need to just absolutely push your buttons. It happens regularly to me at this season, and it is very important to respond skillfully to these things. Don’t let them push you too far off your center. When you recognize it as “the moment” this occurs, just remember you prepared for this and will handle it well.

4. Say No when you have to.

Practice self-compassion and decline things that don’t truly make sense for you. It can be an event, taking on an obligation of some sort, or choosing to engage in that conversation. Remember that we all deserve to have a wonderful holiday season, not just that other person.

5. Give yourself the opportunity for renewal.

Part of our self-care routine should be to allow our batteries to recharge. Give yourself space to do that as needed. But, remember, batteries get charged to be used. So, once you have given yourself time to rejuvenate and recover energy, make an active effort to put that energy towards things that support the continued improvement of your quality of life.

6. Don’t let that good habit you are starting to get the hang of slip.

Just don’t do it. Through the temptation of indulgence and the many faces of stress, I know it would be so easy to let it slip. It might even make sense. But, ask yourself this: How will I feel afterwards if I do this? Don’t just take care of yourself now and cause future-you to suffer.

My vision is that if I can hold to these Challenges, and if you can, then the holidays might be just a little bit easier this year. Perhaps this year, the Christmas lights don’t look quite as dim. Maybe this year, we can find a sense of grounded peace instead of tumultuous seas. I would love to let this be my best Christmas yet. I want to truly feel all the joy I only been in the presence of as it emanated from others. Let’s take back our ownership of our holiday. It’s time we conquered those fears and challenges. Rise and Conquer.


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Ryan Sudbey is a mental health survivor who considers his greatest victory to be against his illnesses. Ryan first spoke publicly about his challenges at the 2018 Fall TIMB show in Boston. He has a variety of interests including meditation, self-development, and martial arts. Speaking on stage for him has honed his focus and he is now making strides to be significantly involved in the mental health recovery community while offering his unique perspective. Ryan has battled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression for several years and allows that to fuel his desire to help alleviate the suffering of others.