For those who celebrate the Wheel of the Year, Yule is a time of quiet, introspection, and solitude. It’s when we embrace a hygge lifestyle: one of less busy-ness and fewer social commitments, and more cosiness and rest. It’s a delightfully counter-cultural notion within a society that values productivity and busy-ness all year ’round. The idea that there are times that we must rest, reflect, and recover is radical…and incredibly healthy.
But, thanks to the pandemic, 2020 has already been nearly an entire year of canceled social commitments and staying home. And many of us don’t have the luxury of being able to slow anything down, as we frantically juggle childcare with working or trying to find work.
And if we do get the chance to rest, that rest doesn’t always feel restorative, since we’re all experiencing multiple, ongoing, months-long, nationwide trauma events simultaneously.
So…what does that mean for Yule? A few thoughts come to mind. (Usual caveats apply, here: I am not a mental health professional or trauma counselor. The recommendations in this post may not be right for you or your situation, and your mileage may vary.)
1. Remember: Everything is optional
Don’t feel like decorating this year? Fuck it. There’s no law that says you have to. Don’t want to bake, or make a big meal? Order pizza instead. Don’t feel like sending cards or buying gifts? Make a big donation to charity instead.
Take the pressure off yourself to conform to expectations and tradition, because in 2020, reality feels warped to the point where time and tradition have no meaning. That means it’s your free pass to make this holiday season what you want it to be, even if that means celebrating nothing, celebrating in an entirely new and weird way, or just celebrating the few things you really enjoy and look forward to. If certain elements are important to members of your household, let them take the lead in making them happen.
2. Forgive yourself
There’s no instruction manual for coping with all the things we’re experiencing right now. Particularly in America, we’re living through a time of shattered and scattered leadership as we grapple with some very large problems. We have contradictory guidance and expectations of behavior from government, social media, major news outlets, friends and family. Chances are, you’ve fucked up at some point, or let somebody down.
Since Yule is a time for reflection, this is a great opportunity to be honest with yourself, and to offer yourself forgiveness for any hurt or pain you may have caused. There are many ways you can approach this. One technique I particularly like to “invite your feelings to tea.” Imagine separating yourself from your feelings of guilt and frustration, and seeing those feelings personified before you, expressing whatever they need to express. Then say to them: “I see you.” (More on this technique is here.) And then offer those feelings love and forgiveness.
If you feel it appropriate, you can also use this time to extend forgiveness to others. Or, if you cannot forgive them, you can come to peace with the decision not to forgive them.
3. Let yourself fall apart a little
Quality rest may be hard to come by, but healing release is possible. Acknowledge that you are kind of a fucked-up mess and give yourself the opportunity to release some of the intense emotions you may have been ignoring in order to stay functional for so many months.
Put on a sad movie and let yourself have a good, ugly cry. Get into your car and crank up some music (or, alternatively, crank up some music and press your face into a pillow), and scream out your frustration. Freewrite all the awful shit you’ve been feeling. If you can, take a day off and just let yourself be a sad, miserable, angry, frustrated lump.
Better yet, if you haven’t been seeing a therapist during all this, and have the resources to do so, find a therapist and start talking through all of this. (I recently restarted therapy, and highly recommend it.)
4. Create small moments of healing
A common trauma response is to mentally and emotionally disconnect from our bodies. Mindfulness practice and certain physical meditative practices can help heal this divide, and fortunately, it doesn’t take a huge commitment to do.
- For a few days, commit to noticing when you change position from standing to sitting, or vice versa.
- Start a meditation practice with 3-5 minutes a day. (There are a variety of apps that can help you do this: Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm are good places to start.)
- Do a 10-minute beginner (or whatever your appropriate skill level) yoga class on YouTube at least once a week.
- Spend some time before falling asleep focusing on your breathing and emptying your mind.
- Take walks outdoors when you can, and pay attention to the sounds, smells, and sensations around you.
5. Start a gratitude practice
Gratitude can be a double-edged sword, and often gratitude practice is recommended in a spiritual-bypassing way. That’s not my intention here. I recommend using this in conjunction with any of the recommendations above, because it’s important to both acknowledge how you’re really feeling, and also take note of the things that are good in the world.
The practice itself is simple: Every day, note three things you’re thankful for. They don’t need to be big things. I’m often very thankful for my functional washer and dryer and reliable indoor plumbing, for example. When you stop to think about it, you may find a surprising number of things you’re thankful for.
Keeping this practice going can be difficult. I like to have an accountability buddy for this, since I forget to do it, otherwise. It’s a great thing to do with a partner, family member, or housemate over a meal. You can also have a daily commitment to texting your gratitudes to a friend each day.
May your Yule be blessed with healing. If you have any other ideas/techniques that have helped you endure these past several months, please post them in the comments.