Marybeth Raynes, a licensed marriage and family therapist spoke at our December Education meeting on supports for the holiday season. She demonstrated how people living with pain, exhaustion, and isolation can craft a meaningful inner-self holiday season with guided imagery and plan strategies for an outer-self holiday with others.
Each of us are a collection of personality parts or sub-selves. For example, a part of ourselves likes to connect with others and another part carries our disappointments. When sick, we spend a lot of time in our own thoughts reliving past experiences and worrying about the future.
Marybeth presented the following information and led the audience in a guided imagery exercise.
Support for an Inner Holiday Season
Key Values: During the imagery exercise ideas that come to mind reflect some of the deepest values you want to re-affirm during this season:
- Deepening and/or expressing your spiritual faith
- Affirmation of love by being with or connecting to a loved one in a particular way; experiencing the pleasure and warmth of opening yourself to the experience of another person.
- Joy and celebration that music can bring
- Service by sharing what you are able to do within your capabilities.
- Rituals of the season that link the past, cement them in the present and carry you forward to the future.
- Valuing and consolidating the inner work you’ve done, wholly feeling yourself, uniting past and present selves.
Why do this now?
- Make one change at a time by focusing on a clear detail of what we want; learning the particular behavior, the thought pattern and whatever goes with it-and then practice, practice, practice.
- These efforts connect parts of our self, thus becoming like an expanded kind of mindfulness where we integrate our past, present, and future.
- Guided imagery: Focus on one thing that you dearly want.
- “Unplug the Christmas Machine”
- The expectations of the Christmas machine cannot be met. Not by anybody, even those without a chronic illness.
- What we want will always be more than our ability to carry it off.
- How much of our busyness do we consider a matter of worthiness?
- Pace now, in December, so you won’t experience a relapse in January.
- What can you do in this next week to take an event, duties, or idealized expectation off your schedule?
- Considering your schedule for the month, what can you cancel?
- Assess your battery life: How many minutes or hours in a day do you realistically have to function?
- Avoid ruminating: Thinking about past difficulties and disappointments requires a lot of cognitive and emotional energy. Instead, switch your focus to details of positive experiences.
- Practice gratitude: Think about specifics. It’s like playing emotional catch with affirmative rebounding.
Support for Outer Holidays with Others
Creating the Event
- Discuss your focused expectation with others. The more you share, the more they may join in creating a season in which you are unplugging the Christmas machine and celebrating your heart’s desire.
- Plan how much batter life it will take, then double it. It always takes longer than we plan.
- We generate the most support from others when we offer it. Although our capacities may be very limited, we can offer small gifts of:
- Listening openly to others’ plans and events even if you can’t participate is the gift of sharing in others’ joy.
- If you can offer some gifts of time and practical help that fit your values and resources, you will have more energy and focus to help create outer-self events.
Resources for Support
- Call 211, for free information about what you might want or need to make your holidays happen more easily.
- The Bateman Horne Center website has many helpful videos. Viewing ones like, “Insights for Living Well with a Chronic Illness,” can reinforce ways your coming January will be as good as possible.
We are grateful for Marybeth Raynes, LCSW, LMFT, insights and sharing her time with us. If this content has been useful to you or a loved one, we invite you to check out our free online class series, explore our video library, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. We thank you for your continued support as we aim to improve today’s quality of life for fibromyalgia and ME/CFS patients everywhere.
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