Journey to Healing and Joy

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Considering Options: Choosing to Stay with a Sex Addict

by Coach Jodi; edited by Marsha Means, M.A., August 2017

Ten years ago when I discovered I was the partner of a sex addict, I felt as if I had fallen into a deep, dark hole: a pit really, and initially, I had no idea where I was, or how to find my way out. Back then—and even now—I identified with this poem about addiction and recovery. For me, it accurately portrays a partner’s journey:

An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson (click here for printable version of original poem)
 
1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
 
2. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
 
3. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
 
4. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
 
5. I walk down a different street.
 
Upon discovery or disclosure, each of us can identify with Chapter One. We wonder, where in the world am I? How did I get here? We feel disoriented, confused, and shocked, and many of us say we feel like we’re spinning in a deep, dark vortex. And we’ve no idea how to get out.
 
Two Questions Helped Me Know What I Wanted to Do
Two simple questions helped me determine what I needed and wanted to do.

1. What can I not live with? This question forces us to determine our “deal breakers.” These are the behaviors we know we cannot and will not tolerate in our marriage. When we encounter true deal breakers, the choice to stay is no longer an option, at least not long term. But sometimes leaving takes time. It can require time to plan and prepare, even if we don’t want it to. However, having a plan, and persistently working it will enable us to leave as soon as the pieces of our plan are in place.

(Please note: This newsletter does not apply to abusive and dangerous situations. Anyone in an abusive situation and in danger must seek safety immediately --- to stay when harm and danger are imminent, for you or your children, is not an option.)
 
2. What can I live with? Most of us at least consider leaving. And when we do, we’re forced to examine our ability—or inability—to make it on our own, if we leave the marriage. Finances, children, family matters, or health issues might make staying the wisest—or the only—choice. At least for a season. I took the time I needed to sift through all of the painful feelings of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and feeling less-than, and eventually I chose to stay, even though my marriage wasn’t healed.
 
These two questions helped me gain the clarity and peace I needed to make healthy decisions about my life and my future. You may have different questions you need to answer, because each of our journeys is uniquely our own.
 
Coming to Understand the Strange World Of Sex Addiction
At some point post-discovery, our shock wears off and we bounce between Chapters 2 and 3 of the poem above.

During this time we try to learn what sex addiction is about, and how to care for ourselves in a marriage tainted by it. Like me, many partners realize, for their own reasons, they need or want to stay in their marriage. Some women will stay for a short while as they work their plan and prepare to leave. And others will choose to stay, perhaps permanently. Either way, partners can use this time to learn, heal, and prepare for their future.

Six Tasks that Equip Us to Heal Whether We Choose to Stay or Leave
The following task list helped me take responsibility for my own well being, and it kept me from slipping into the negative patterns that can come when married to a sex addict.

*Finding Support: Support and a healing process is crucial for for partners of sex addicts. One of the best resources available is our Journey to Healing and Joy workbook. Working through this workbook with a coach and a small group of women is the best gift you could give yourself. At the end of the 12 weeks you will have been given the opportunity to share your story in a safe setting while gaining new skills and tools to use not only in your marriage but in every relationship in your life.
 
*Separating Your Healing from the Addict's: After I learned as much as I needed to about this addiction, I focused my energy on learning ways to heal from my trauma symptoms. And I learned that if we want to heal, we must separate our healing from that of the sex addict. Learning how to detach and refocus on our own healing for a season is one of the hardest things we must do, but without it, we will never heal.
 
*Utilizing the Power of the Serenity Prayer: The Serenity Prayer can bring calm, clarity, and peace in the space of thirty seconds. It’s like a form of spiritual breathing. The simplicity of this prayer helps me discern my needs, and helps me access the empowerment I need to meet them. It enables me to “let go” when needed, and it provides a continuing source of courage and comfort. I love its wisdom and it’s simplicity: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
 
*Learning and Using Boundaries: Learning how to detach from my husband in a healthy way provided a safe space to learn and create the boundaries I needed to begin to heal. It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually learned how to create healthy boundaries to keep myself safe. If you need help with boundaries, our A Circle Of Joy's Coach Carin facilitates a boundaries support group for that purpose.
 
*Taking Responsibility for Our Own Well Being: The Life Model has played an important role in my healing. And nothing is more powerful in helping us take responsibility for our own healing and well being than the Life Model principles. Learning to “return to joy from negative emotions,” and “using joy to increase my emotional capacity so it’s higher than my pain” were foundations for me. Another Life Model principle that’s helped me is “Learning to suffer well.” This means, “Can I be true to who I am in the midst of suffering?” We touch on the Life Model principles in our Journey to Healing & Joy groups, but if you want to learn about these skills and many more, consider participating in a Healing through Joy group with Coach Katherine or with me, Coach Jodi.
 
*Finding Purpose In Our Pain: While early post-discovery is a very painful time, finding “the purpose in the pain” is highly valuable. Women have even said it is a sacred time where they feel more connected to their true self. Once they experience “being well,” and learn new ways to take care of themselves (or return to activities that bring them joy), wonderful, beautiful things can happen. And they learn how to be well in a less than ideal marriage.
 
In time, I was able to regain a sense of safety and security, even though my marriage wasn’t healed. Now, ten years post-discovery, I see myself on Chapter 4 of the poem. I now know where the holes are, and I am able to walk around them. I still have triggers but they no longer have the power to hijack my brain. I can access and use empowerment to take care of myself in healthy ways. And I know Chapter 5 is available to me if I am not able to keep myself emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically safe while staying married.
 
I encourage you to find the resources and tools you need to heal, whether or not your husband chooses recovery, and whether or not you stay. Healing is possible for any woman who discovers she is married to a sex addict.
 
While I did not choose this addiction, I do get to choose my story. I am not responsible for my husband’s recovery, but I am responsible to make sure this addiction doesn’t get “two for the price of one.” Ten years ago I was determined to find the help and support I needed to heal and feel like myself again, and I’m so glad I did. My hope is that you will find the help you need to heal from the pain this addiction has brought into your life. We are here to help you on your healing journey.
 
With your healing at heart,
Coach Jodi
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Marriage: Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

Marriage: Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

by Coach Katherine; edited by Marsha Means, M.A., July 2017

No bride ever dreams of divorce on her wedding day. But sadly, for those of us married to sex addicts, it is something many of us eventually consider. I am one of those women.

Recognizing the Inconsistences
As I was married to a sex addict for 34 years. My story can be found on our website by clicking here. A year or two prior to separating, I started to suspect that something wasn’t right with my husband. Because he had been in recovery for several years, and I thought things were getting better, I felt a range of emotions when I considered the inconsistencies in his recovery. If your husband isn’t working a strong recovery program, you may identify with them. These are just a few I recognized:

*Denial that he was choosing his addiction all over again after six years of sobriety.
 
*Anger that I might have to enforce my consequences. After all, hadn’t I said the marriage would end if he acted out again?
 
*Questioning God. Because my faith is an important part of my life, I stayed in the marriage because I believed God had asked me to. I did my part, so why was He allowing my husband to go back into his addiction?
 
When I dared to acknowledge these emotions, it forced me to face hard questions.
 
Asking Myself The Hard Questions
As I considered my marriage and ability to live on my own, these four questions were among those I asked myself:
 
*Can I stay in my marriage when it appeared that my husband would probably never choose long term wholeness and healing?
 
*Was lack of commitment to the hard work of recovery all he was willing to give me?
 
*Could I accept the pain and loneliness one feels with a sex addict not in recovery for the rest of our married life, knowing how it was affecting me?
 
*Didn’t I deserve to have a faithful and honest husband who loved me?
 
It took time to sift through my circumstances and ask myself the hard questions. Each of us must do this in our own way to find our personal answers to the difficult questions we must face, and the inner peace we need to accept what we find there.
 
Facing My Fears
Contemplating divorce forced me to face my fears and really look at the personal cost of ending my marriage. These are some of the fears I faced:
 
*Fear of being unable to support myself. I married at 18 and was a stay at home mom who didn’t have to work outside the home. I had only gone back to work four years prior to my separation.
Gratefully my children were grown by the time I separated. But for those who still have children at home, this fear—and reality—can force them to delay the separation until they’ve honed their workplace skills and gained the ability to earn a high enough income to survive.
 
If you face this challenge, remember: information is power. Most, if not all, cities and large towns have a Crisis Clinic with a huge data bank of resources for anyone in the community facing hard life situations. Start your search for help and answers there. Another great resource can be found at the Women’s Resource Center at a local junior college or other service center in your community. There you can seek aptitude testing, and discuss with counselors fields of study that require shorter periods of prep and education, but also earn sufficient income.
 
Without workplace-ready job skills, we may have to get creative to build a bridge from where we are to where we want to be. Hold on to the reality that this is a period of transition and not your final destination. If you keep your eyes on the goal of self-sufficiency, you will get there in time.
 
*My fear of the impact on my children. My children were grown, so they didn’t experience the impact younger children nearly always feel. And my former husband and I are able to be friends, so holidays and special events can still be enjoyed as a family. But I know that’s impossible for many, and children often experience their own trauma when a family struggles with sex addiction. So find an experienced counselor if your children need help processing and adapting to the life changes. If counseling for them is outside your financial capability, school counselors have helped the children of some clients, without the cost of a private therapist.
 
*Fear of losing my spiritual community. Many churches and religions advise against divorce. So for those of us who are a part of a spiritual community, making a decision aligned with our beliefs and teaching generally requires time, soul searching, and perhaps spiritual counsel. If you fall into this category, I explain how I arrived at a place of peace at the end of this article.
 
*Fear of splitting our marital assets. Unless your partner is kind and caring, fair and generous, even when he is living in his addiction, seek legal counsel to understand your marital assets and your rights to a percentage of them in the event of a divorce. Learn all you can about what you have to work with so you can fight fear with knowledge. Remember: information is power, so do everything you can to become informed. If you can’t afford legal counsel, every town has a legal clinic where lawyers offer a pro bono session to women in need. There is generally a six week waiting list before you can get an appointment, so if you find you are already asking yourself the hard questions, get on the waiting list. Seeking counsel does not mean your marriage will end. It simply means you are gathering information in case your partner doesn’t fight for sobriety and you eventually have to leave your marriage.
 
*The fear of being alone. Being single doesn’t mean you have to be alone. I knew the pain of being alone when I was married. I don’t feel that pain anymore as I live on my own. Good friends can help fill that gap. Start exploring new things and discover what brings you joy. Get familiar with what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve also gained encouragement from starting a joy journal. It gives me a way to track the joys that come into my life and counters letting them pass by unnoticed.
 
These are just a few of the fears we face. Remember, you can’t go over fear, under fear, or around it. If you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. When you face fear head on and gather needed information, fear loses its crippling power, and increased courage and new growth begin to replace your fears.
 
Dealing with our fears may be the biggest challenge of divorce. But when we allow fear dominate our thoughts, it can keep us stuck and unable to move forward toward a new chapter in our life. We all suffer from fear of change and fear of the unknown. And we definitely face those fears when sex addiction destroys our marriage.
 
Take Your Time
Take your time. Don't be afraid to declare a "mourning time" for yourself. Divorce is like a death, so please don’t downplay the deep grief you feel. Many find divorce more painful than the death of their life partner, because an addict makes a choice that doesn’t leave room for his wife in his life, but one who dies didn't choose to leave. Face your losses and grieve them as much as possible prior to leaving. Be proactive. Lay out an exit plan that works for you. Get help from those you trust. Find a therapist or coach who can help you take those steps. If faith is part of your life, trust that God is for you and not against you. Plan ahead so that when you are alone, you've already faced the period of transition that precedes a new life.
 
I took my time. For me that was key. It helped me make progress when I faced the emotional losses that came with the decision to leave my marriage prior to actually leaving.
 
A word of caution: If you are being abused, please don't wait to leave. Find help now. Staying in an abusive relationship is not only emotionally crippling, it can be dangerous for you and for your children.
 
Reaching Acceptance
Finally, I came to a place of acceptance of the painful truth that my husband wasn’t choosing recovery. Whether I stayed or divorced, I had no choice but to accept my situation. And as I did, I came to acknowledge the painful reality that my husband was not choosing recovery and life with me over his addictive behavior. That really hurts, but acceptance is the key to our eventual healing.
 
Two Years Post Divorce
I have been divorced for over two years now. I know the fear of facing life alone; the fear of facing financial worries; and the fear of the impact of divorce on our children. But I have survived, and gone on to thrive.
 
Divorce is not an event but a process. You grow through it minute by minute, hour by hour, and week by week. Then one day you realize the pain has eased and you feel joy again.
 
Regrets & Joys
I knew I didn’t want to feel regret, which is why I took my time. But there’s one regret I’ve failed to avoid: I wish I had asked my husband for a full disclosure and polygraph during those years before separation. But because his addiction cost us our home, his career, and virtually everything, the resulting financial burdens put an intensive outside our financial reach. I do regret that we couldn’t do an intensive, but I’ve come to terms with that part of my story.
 
For the most part, I now have so much more joy in my life. Several years ago I discovered The Life Model and their teaching on the importance and value of creating joy in our lives. I proactively pursued joy from that moment on, and it became a turning point in my healing journey. I found joy so key in my life, I taught classes at my church on the value and practice of joy for those struggling with addictions and those in trauma. And we include it in the groups we offer at A Circle of Joy.
 
I also added gratefulness and appreciation to my tool box. Joy, appreciation, and gratefulness became focal points as I moved through my losses and trauma. I still pursue these things faithfully. I now have a home that I love; my children and I are close; I love my job, have good friends, and I have a new church that I enjoy.
 
I am divorced but I don’t suffer from loneliness like I did in my marriage. I truly feel content knowing that God continues to use and grow me. I hold on to this scripture in Isaiah 54:5: For your Maker is your husband; the LORD Almighty is his name. The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit; a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
 
Divorce Recovery Takes Time
I suggest you give yourself at least two years to move through the period of recovery post divorce. Since my divorce, I’m learning to trust God at a deeper level. I’m still a work in progress, trust me, but I’m learning to trust Him in the areas of my finances and my future. I’m learning that I am whole on my own; that I don’t need a husband to make me feel complete. I still pray for my former husband, and I do want him to find healing and peace.
 
For Those Whose Faith & Beliefs Typically Do Not Leave Room For Divorce
The Bible tells us God hates divorce. Unfortunately, most pastors only know how to play that one string. Most avoid speaking about pornography and infidelity because they’ve not been trained in helping people through the heartache of sex addiction.

However, in the Bible, God does recognize the reality of divorce. I believe He knew divorces were going to occur, so He outlined the proper methods to follow. In Matthew 19, Jesus debates with religious leaders about the grounds on which a divorce could happen. In verse 9 he said that divorce was invalid except for marital unfaithfulness. I believe that. If your husband is unwilling to recover from sex addiction—to work his recovery and rebuild a healthy emotional and sexual relationship with you—Jesus said that you have grounds for divorce.
I know some will disagree with me, but as my husband returned to his addiction, I sat down with my senior pastor and asked him his views on divorce. He shared his perspective on divorce in cases such as mine, and it helped me further accept my reality, and to make a choice that was in line with my beliefs.
 
Blessings,
Coach Katherine
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heart to heart POST

The Amazing Power of Heart to Heart Support: How Relationships Can Help Us Heal.

by Marsha Means, M.A., July 2017

I want to share with you a wonderful, nine minute video about a woman named Amy Silverstein. You can view the video on Amy's website by clicking here (please scroll to the middle of her home page). The video is also on YouTube here. It’s a video about the power of support when life gives us more than we can handle on our own. Interestingly, though Amy has the kind of husband every woman dreams of, even he isn’t enough without the power of heart to heart support from Amy's female friends or "sisters" on her journey.

I’ve watched the video several times, each time jotting down new takeaways from this life-giving story. But what I hope you take away is that none of us can face life’s most painful and difficult mountains without what the story calls a “support group posse.” It takes a group of supportive sisters who will tunnel through the mountain’s pain and chaos with us. Though Amy’s mountain is different—and perhaps even worse—than ours, it’s her circle of support that enables her to face it.

Amy had to choose whether to let herself literally die with her broken heart, or to face all that comes with getting a new one. It was her circle of supportive sisters who gave her the courage and tenacity to choose life. The right kind of support can enable us to choose life too.

We would love to hear your takeaways from this powerful video, and we invite you to post them on our Facebook Page or in our free Online Community. For me, it’s a beautiful metaphor of what it takes to heal, whether it’s our physical heart or emotional heart that’s dying.

With your healing at heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.
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The Roller Coaster of Rage

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Rage is a very real emotion that most of us have experienced to one degree or another. It can rear its ugly head in the middle of an otherwise peaceful day. For example, you are driving down the freeway enjoying a song by one of your favorite Christian artists, feeling joyful and alive in the love of Jesus. Without warning, some knucklehead suddenly begins riding your bumper, honking his horn, flashing his head lights and waving his arms. You get over as soon as you can, the motorist behind you quickly speeds up, and as he passes you, he gives you the California wave. You have handled all of this without an angry reaction. But then, the very motorist who had just been riding you bumper pulls in front of you, nearly hitting the left front of your car as he does, before slamming on his brakes right in front of you! As you slam on your brakes, reason gives way to emotion, and rage suddenly suspends all of thoughts of love, joy, peace and mercy!

Perhaps the above example has not happened to you, but, chances are, you have received a rude phone call, an unjust, accusatory email, been victimized by someone else’s dishonest and ugly Facebook post, or faced undeserved, extremely destructive criticism from an employer, a friend, or a loved one. All of these experiences can produce powerful emotions, not the least of which is rage.

Yet none of these can compare with the trauma we suffer when we experience deep and personal betrayal. Unfortunately, the closer you and I allow someone to get to us emotionally, the more devastating the results of the betrayal. Such betrayal has the power to emotionally crush us. It can and does cripple our ability to function normally. Feelings of depression, isolation, frustration, self-doubt, despair, hopelessness, paranoia, and yes, rage, replace the peace, love, and joy for which we long.

Nearly 22 years ago I experienced such betrayal. Married for over 18 years to the love of my life whom I had met at Bible College, my wife and I had three wonderful teen-aged children. I was pastoring a very successful church that we had founded 7 years earlier. Our children were healthy, we all loved our community, and were enjoying very close fellowship both inside and outside of our church family.

Then, one day, my wife shared that she was struggling emotionally and needed a break. She quit her job and went to spend two months with her three sisters, all of whom lived in the same community 10 hours’ drive from our town. At the end of the two months she told me and our children she was not coming back. It was time for her to live for herself rather than for them and me. She had found a new life that had no room in it for any of us or God.

For the next several months I drove back and forth from where she was living and our town, paying for marital counseling and praying for a miracle. Yet, in the end, she moved in with another man, divorced me, turned her back on her faith, and finally, married one of the men with whom she had dated.

I must confess that I experienced an entire rainbow of emotions. As if the betrayal of our marriage vows were not enough, she also ran up thousands of dollars in partying, traveling and frivolous spending, leaving me holding the financial bag and making it far more difficult to provide for my children’s needs. The feelings of betrayal, abandonment, rejection, self-doubt, and humiliation cut very deeply and left me feeling helpless, and, at times, hopeless.

All of these emotions led to a deep sense of anger over the seeming injustice of the whole matter. I discovered that such anger cannot be repressed and kept inside or it would have destroyed me. So, on several occasions I invited God to go on a drive with me. I would roll down the windows and begin sharing my emotions with my Heavenly Daddy. Within a few minutes I would hear myself screaming. A few minutes later I would be sobbing, feeling guilty for such an emotional outburst. After all, how could a Christian man, a pastor no less, be so full of anger?

On some of the drives, I would cycle through several waves of this emotional roller coaster: from feelings of hurt and betrayal to full-on rage to a deep sense of loss and sorrow to feelings of guilt and shame. I will always be grateful to my Heavenly Daddy for His understanding, comfort, and long-suffering as He allowed me to work through my emotions rather than deny their existence.

Why do I share this now? I believe that many men who are in recovery do not fully appreciate the roller coaster of rage on which their wives find themselves due to the unfaithfulness of their husbands. The husband has unloaded his shame and guilt in a full disclosure, he fells a great weight has lifted from his shoulders, and now he is ready to go full steam ahead toward full recovery. Following years of acting out, temporary euphoria, shame and guilt, self-promises to never do that again, a period of sobriety, building tension and stress, then another episode of acting out, and so on, the husband has reached the point that he is ready to leave all of it behind.

Unfortunately, his wife’s hell has just begun! Her whole world has collapsed upon her, and everything she held dear has just been exposed as a sham. Self-doubt, self-recrimination, and self-loathing are often experienced by the very women who has been betrayed and lied to for years. But soon the shame, betrayal, and deep emotional wounds give way to rage.

I hope you can hear my heart, husbands. This rage will be aimed at you! It does not mean that your wife has not forgiven you or that she hates you. It does mean that her wounds are so deep and have caused her such pain that the resulting rage cannot be contained. It must get out or it will emotionally cripple her. The fact that she has not left you is evidence enough that she still loves you. However, both she and the marriage have forever changed. There can be no going back to the way it was. There must be a new normal, a new beginning, a new relationship firmly grounded on truth, transparency, and intentional honesty.

Husband, you wounded her, and now it is you who can help her heal. First of all, most women stay in the rage cycle because they feel that their husband is not listening or does not get it. So the wife escalates because she desperately needs her husband to appreciate the depth of her pain and validate the emotions she is now experiencing. Most husbands react with fight or flight; we argue defensively or evacuate her presence to avoid the fight. Both options only inflict greater pain and lengthen your wife’s recovery.

Rather than fight or flee, stay with her and validate her and her emotions. Accept full responsibility for her pain, give her your permission to scream, and allow her to cycle through the rage that is flowing from her broken heart. Be the rock to whom she can anchor as the waves of rage emotionally toss her to and fro.

When the rage subsides, be there with her, using words of encouragement, affirmation, and reassurance of your love and commitment. I know that this sounds counter-intuitive, but it is the only way to help your wife work through her emotions and achieve full emotional health once again. Your presence in these moments coupled with your loving affirmation will go a long way to creating the new, intimate normal for which you both long.

It is my desire to help men learn the skills necessary to live in step with God’s Holy Spirit and to love their wives like our Lord Jesus Christ loves His church. Feel free to contact me via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or by phone (480-888-5991), or visit freedomunit.com to learn more about upcoming phone groups for men.

 

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The holidays. Just the mere mention of this time of year can elicit all sorts of emotions within us. How about you? Does it bring memories of joy, laughter and happiness? Perhaps. But for most of us, it also brings something else…stress! There is so much to do! Shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, wrapping gifts, mailing out Christmas cards, attending Christmas parties and going to gatherings with family and friends. And unfortunately for those struggling with chronic health issues, this time of year takes an even greater toll on our bodies and can leave you feeling absolutely depleted physically, emotionally and even spiritually. To help you better survive and thrive during this time of year, I would like to share with you five things you can do to help support your health during the added stress of this season.

1. Accept Yourself as You Are – Many of us struggling with chronic health issues also experience other limitations. Your body is likely not as strong physically as it used to be, fatigue may be a constant companion for you, you may have gained weight and do not see yourself as attractive as you once were, your mind may be a bit foggy and your confidence level may have suffered. I know, because this is what happened to me. And if you are like so many women, your response is to withdraw from the outside world and crawl inside your shell until you feel better, but this is very hard to do during this time of year. So what do you do? My prayer for you is that you pause and reflect on the beautiful person that you are! Despite these physical challenges, you are still the same person with the same heart and soul and your health challenges do not change these aspects of you. Focus on and connect with the love and passion you have for people and life…because that is who you really are!

2. Listen to Your Body – There are so many extra demands placed upon you during this time of year and it is essential that you learn to listen to your body. If you are experiencing fatigue or pain or even depression, stop and ask yourself what can you do to support your body. When your body says it is tired or in pain please stop and give it the rest it needs! In the long run, you will get more done and it will help protect your body from dipping into a worse state of being. And even more, it will give you renewed energy with which to enjoy your family and friends!

3. Learn to Let Go – of Even the Good Things – There are so many good and worthy activities that we can invest ourselves in during the holiday season. But the problem is that we have a very limited supply of energy for each day. It is as if we are a little oil lamp and once all the oil in our vessel is burned the light goes out and all we can do is sit on the couch or go to bed. So what do you do? You need to learn to say no---to even the good things and activities. You may not be able to attend every holiday party that you are invited to. Maybe you order gifts online rather than running around from store to store. You don’t need to bake 6 different types of Christmas cookies; one or two will be just fine. And it is okay to enlist the help of others. Most of our loved ones will be more than happy to help out to give you the rest you need to survive this time of year. Remember, your health is paramount. And to have the energy to enjoy the most important activities of this holiday season, you must learn to say no.

4. Practice Good Self-Care – Good self-care is taking the time to care for you. And believe it or not this is very difficult for many of us to do! We are so focused on serving others and meeting their needs that we put off taking care of our own needs, especially during this time of year. Here is what I suggest that you do. Make a list of activities that restore you, such as taking a walk in nature, listening to soft music, taking a warm bath or getting a relaxing massage. Then make sure that you take time each day to love on yourself by doing one of these activities. Do not feel guilty if you do these. You are valuable to so many people and you deserve it!

5. Take Time to Fill Your Joy Cup – Everyone has a joy cup. And studies have shown that when your joy cup is full, it helps to regulate your emotions, your pain and your immune system. And it also releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Isn’t that amazing! Just imagine how much better you might feel if you can fill your joy cup! So how do you fill your joy cup? In a nutshell, you build your joy capacity through loving, fulfilling relationships. We experience joy when we are with someone who is glad to be with us; time with this person produces warm, happy feelings. So you need to ask yourself, who do you have in your life that brings joy to you when you are together. It could be your spouse, a sibling, a good friend. But think about who the person or persons is(are) and purpose to spend fun time with them. Don’t say that you don’t have time, because this is the very thing that will give you the strength and energy to enjoy this holiday season!

I hope that you will take the time to implement these 5 steps. I know that it will take some of your precious time and energy to do these things, but in the big picture it will help you find greater joy and contentment during the next several weeks. My prayer for you is that these steps will help you to not only survive – but thrive – this holiday season!