Thanksgiving is technically over but the message of thanksgiving permeates the holiday season. We are told to be thankful, to make dinner for friends and family, to reflect on the things that matter most.
As we approach the end of the year, we at Urban Strategies have much to be grateful for.
Why We Are Thankful
This summer, our funding for our Bienestar project was increased to expand our work across three new cities. We started out this project in Phoenix, Arizona, the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas and Tampa, Florida. The new funding has allowed us to spread our reach to the following areas:
- Central and South Florida
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley areas of Texas
- Northern Virginia
With this expansion come four new staff members who bring new energy and enthusiasm to Bienestar. Meet them here. And with new staff, we can jump into communities and begin the work on cultivating wellness in these communities alongside many partners like you.
Dinner for Friends and Family
Thanksgiving in many ways is a perfect reflection of what our Bienestar project is about. We believe in cultivating wellness in our communities. As we mentioned in our article last month, we believe in relational or familial wellness that encompasses eight different areas including physical, emotional, socioeconomic and spiritual wellness. And the dinner table is the best representation of a place of wellness. From what is served for dinner, to how dinner is prepared to who is sitting at the table to what is discussed. Dinner time – and the Thanksgiving table in particular – can be a reflection and litmus test of the wellness of our families.
What does your Thanksgiving table look like?
If you really stop and think about this Thanksgiving that just passed, what mattered most?
Was the food celebrated? Meaning, was it more important to eat the things you love above all else? Even if it was not healthy to eat?
Or did you celebrate having everyone in the same room together? In other words, how much energy did you spend in getting family and friends together?
Maybe you stressed about not having family to be with, or a place to go. Did that cause you to lose focus on what matters most this holiday?
Or maybe having a good time is what mattered most? How much effort did you invest in people getting along with each other? Did you worry about entertaining people? Or maybe, was it conversation topics that worried you?
Reflecting on What Matters
If any one thing mentioned above was difficult or overly focused on or caused you stress, the good news is that you are not alone. Though all of the things above are good things to focus on, many of us are guilty of overly focusing on at least one thing on that list. The question though is if you are ready to work toward finding a healthy balance? Especially before the Winter Holidays come this month, what could you do differently?
Need help? Here are a couple of ideas:
If food is your downfall, talk with your family about how you want to change that this upcoming season. Brainstorm ways you could make things better. For example, maybe together come up with a menu that everyone would be happy with and work on a plan to achieve it together. Maybe look up alternative recipes that are prepared in healthier ways. Also, maybe you come up with a plan to do some physical activity to break up all the eating! From going on a walk together, to ice skating, there are lots of ways to get moving and feel less guilty about all the calories that the holidays tend to make us consume.
For those of you who stress about family dynamics and conversation, maybe this is a chance to begin addressing this all too important area. Maybe this provides you with a chance to bring up those difficult topics that you have feared addressing with your partner or spouse, children or friends. There are many helpful resources that can assist with these conversations (i.e. books, websites, coaches, counselors, etc.). The key though is taking those first steps in that direction.
A couple of important steps to consider are the following:
- Speaking up is healthy. What often happens when we do not speak up is that relationships begin to disintegrate. Especially if you are harboring negative feelings towards a person, situation, etc. The issue has more to do with how issues are addressed and many resources–from counselors to informational resources–exist to support you in preparing how to bring up your concerns and feelings.
- Believing that there are two sides to the matter. As right as you might feel, there is another perspective that must be heard and considered. Without this, very little progress can be made in a conversation.
- Evaluating assumptions. Are there things you have come to believe that may not be fact? All of us are prone to make assumptions about others—in many ways, this is how we manage circumstances and relationships in life. Yet an assumption is just that, a perspective on a behavior, intention, feeling, etc. that can only be confirmed or disproved by talking.
- Being open. This will help you in hearing what others are saying, acknowledging their perspective and feelings, as well as working through new perspectives or ways of interacting that can bring about healing.
Certainly, there are many steps in between that could be discussed but these reflect several key ones that will help in beginning to improve dynamics between friends and family.
There is much that can be said on this topic, and yet the holidays have become synonymous with having to give gifts. Despite what popular culture says, we have a choice as to how we choose to celebrate the season. What does your family really need these holidays? Maybe it is worth spending some time focused on that this season in order to relieve the stress and instead produce a holiday season that is meaningful to all.
Do What Matters Most
With all that is happening in our nation and world, our families and communities need us to focus on what matters—on spreading good will and good cheer to those around us. Start with yourself, then your family and then see how this can also impact your community. Make the choice today to do what matters most this season!