Inside Track: Holidays: Humbug, happiness, or something in between?:

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  • Holidays: Humbug, happiness, or something in between?

    What is the formula for not just surviving but thriving during the holidays? Can you engage in a way that leaves you relatively unscathed and possibly replenished and restored? Practicing the art of mindfulness could help.

    Linda Albert

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    Dec. 21, 2011 – Who enjoys the holidays, who wishes they were over, and who teeters somewhere in between? For most of us, we migrate somewhere along this continuum throughout the holiday season. Every year there are articles written about surviving the holidays. They usually incorporate a list of do’s and don’ts along the lines of don’t drink too much, don’t eat too much, do get rest, do keep exercising, and on and on. Then there are the articles that focus on how to get along with your family. You know, those people that you manage to avoid the other 11 months of the year or you spend time with them but notice they become particularly challenging during the holidays.


    In this video, Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program (WisLAP) volunteers discuss the issues that legal professionals face and how the program helps.

    Finding ‘your’ holiday formula

    So what is the formula for not just surviving but thriving during the holidays? Perhaps it is centered more around gaining an awareness of “how” you do the holidays versus “what” you do during the holidays. By this I mean getting up each day, looking at what is on your plate for that day and asking yourself “How am I going to do today in a way that maintains or improves my health and wellbeing?”

    Just as an experiment, apply this question to an upcoming task, event, or responsibility. Regardless of the specifics, ask the question and see what thoughts come to mind. If your mind is particularly mischievous, it may focus on all the reasons that you cannot do these events in line with sanity and wellness. Notice this critical mind then work to redirect it back to the question of “How can I do this in a way that works for me?” For example, if you choose to leave an event after one hour but your colleague stays for three, just notice the different choice. How you do the event may be different from someone else; try not to judge or compare.

    Be mindful of your choices

    This technique is nothing more than practicing the art of mindfulness. Happiness is supposedly increased when we focus on activities that intersect pleasure and meaning. Certain events, possibly some of which occur during the holidays, may not be in that category. The alternative to avoidance or faux Polly Anna is to approach this season with a mindful state encouraging yourself to engage in a way that leaves you relatively unscathed and possibly replenished and restored. For more on mindfulness, check out Scott Rogers book, The Six Minute Solution: A Mindfulness Primer for Lawyers.

    If you want the list approach, read Cheryl Richardson’s book, Take Time for Your Life, where she claims, generally speaking, there are three ways to complete the items on your list:

    • Take care of it yourself; do it!

    • Transfer the task to someone else; hire it!

    • Throw it out; chuck it!

    Happy being mindful whether you are doing, hiring, or chucking this holiday season.

    About the author

    Linda Albert, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified alcohol and drug counselor, is the State Bar’s WisLAP Coordinator. She received her Master’s Degree from U.W.-Madison in Social Work. Albert has worked over the past 28 years as an administrator, consultant, trainer, and psychotherapist in a variety of settings specializing in developing programs and treatment approaches that focus on resilience and hardiness.




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