As Catholics, December can be a spiritual peak as we’re preparing our hearts for the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet, societal expectations, seasonal commitments, temptations to indulge, loneliness, and seeing family can also increase our anxiety and cause us to lose peace.
Regardless of how we made it through the holidays, the beginning of a new year gives us an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to recovery and relationship with God. As we begin this January, below are some strategies I’ve found to help me stay in right relationship with God, myself, and my fellows.
Frequent Eucharistic Adoration
Eucharistic Adoration is extremely powerful. It’s incredible that we can sit in the presence of the Lord and be loved and accepted just as we are. Frequenting Eucharistic adoration is like receiving a spiritual hug, and it protects us against external expectations and worldly anxieties.
As helpful as it is to pray, read, or journal during Eucharistic adoration, it’s also important to sometimes just be still and listen in the presence of the Lord. Our culture promotes progressive busyness, and spending time with the Blessed Sacrament is a great way to counter this impulse as well as to pause, listen, and be in His presence during this new year.
Journaling was one of those habits that I knew was a good recovery tool but was hard for me to start doing. I thought I didn’t have time or worried about someone finding and reading it and thinking it sounded “dumb.” But this past year a friend gave me a beautiful prayer journal as a gift and, thankfully, I have since picked up this healthy habit of journaling.
I’ve found it so helpful for processing my thoughts and creating space in my life. When I write, it feels like I’m writing to God (telling Him what He already knows, of course) and I think it’s one of the best contemplation tools we have. For me, the best way to schedule this habit is to write when I feel the Holy Spirit is prompting me. Sometimes my journal entry is about a day’s events, sometimes it’s about asking God to help certain people, and sometimes it turns into a grocery list! Journaling is helpful because it gives us a healthy outlet for our thoughts and offers us a space to grow spiritually.
Isolation can become comfortable. This is something we probably all have some experience with after these past couple of years of lockdowns and quarantines. I often think of the saying, “addiction is the opposite of connection.” The more engaged and connected we are with others, the harder it is for us to fall into self, addiction, and sin.
I also think of getting connected as looking for opportunities to serve. As much as we need to reach out to others to stay healthy there is always someone who needs us to reach out to them. We all hit speed bumps from time to time in life and it is important to have a web of people in our life that we can turn to when we need help as we continue our recovery and spiritual journey.
Check in with Yourself and Control the “Controllables”
Many of us are familiar with the acronym “HALT,” which those in recovery will often bring up when we’re feeling off. It’s a good practice, and by checking in on our current state of mind we can determine if our thinking and feeling are a result of our being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When we identify that we aren’t having certain needs met, then we can take action to help meet them.
It’s a great help to be able to identify quickly when one of our basic needs is not being met. When I’m doing certain activities or with certain people, I will try to visualize “my cup” and determine whether it is being “filled” or “drained.” If it’s being drained, I consider ways to prevent this from continuing. If my cup is filled, then I know a particular activity, person, or group of people is life-giving for me.
Embrace The Serenity Prayer
The Serenity Prayer is a perfect prayer for contemplation. When I consider the “things I cannot change,” I picture my life as a timeline with the past and other people set in stone and, therefore, unchangeable (and things and people not to be worried about).
Equally as important as accepting the things we cannot change is being aware of the things we can. We can change how we act or react to certain things in our lives and how we treat ourselves and others moving forward. Being an active participant in our own recovery and practicing self-care to the best of our ability is a wonderful way to get us to a place where we can better serve others over this next year.
Get Sun and Exercise
Depending on your geographic location, it can be hard to get as much sun in the winter as we are used to getting in the summer. Still, it’s important to get sunlight, even if that means bundling up for the outside cold. Our best source of vitamin D is from sun exposure and it has a really significant effect on our mind, body, and spirit. If you live in a location where it’s particularly cloudy during the winter, it may be worth purchasing a light therapy box for your office or home. When I get enough sun I am usually in a much better mood and I think, Thank God for the sun/Son!
Sometimes just getting outside is one of the best ways to get out of our heads and to experience a detachment from ourselves and our thoughts. When we are stuck in a thought that we know isn’t serving us, a gust of wind on a blustery winter day, like a slap on the face, can help us snap out of it.
Related to this, the healthiest people I know are walkers. They get up every day and walk outside. I know daily walkers in their 80s and 90s that seem sharper than people half their age. The more we move our bodies the more clarity we’ll have in our minds. Physical activity undeniably helps us spiritually, mentally, and physically.
And we know from Scripture that Jesus walked quite a bit, too. So, by literally walking in His footsteps we can take advantage of the many benefits that daily exercise can give us as we enter this new year to keep us on the right track when it comes to our recovery and spiritual life.
Allison is sober and a self-proclaimed “cradle convert” who has received a great deal of grace after coming back to her Catholic faith. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to be a sober Catholic wife and mother and loves nothing more than being with her family. She loves daily Mass and connecting with God outside through nature.