“You better watch out. You better not cry. “

You might think the above words are aimed at our children, since the all-powerful Santa Claus will only leave gifts to “nice” kids (not “naughty”). But I think this phrase is aimed at adults, too. It’s a warning about what is around the corner…the holidays.

Sure, this festive time of year can bring us joy. Fancy parties, elaborate decorations, delicious food, time with family…this all sounds great, right? Oftentimes, however, the holidays create stress, loneliness, grief, and regret.

After my father’s sudden death in 2004 and then a painful divorce a few years later, my holidays have been tough to say the least. I miss my dad more this time of year than any other time, and not waking up with my daughter, Hannah, on alternate Christmas mornings kills me.

I can’t hibernate until January, unfortunately, so I’m grateful that compassion and self-compassion can help me navigate this month.

Here are ways we can use compassion to help us get through the holidays:

1 – Self-compassion, self-compassion, self-compassion.

I repeated it three times, because it is THAT necessary. Especially this time of year when you’ve got a jam-packed schedule, holiday cards that need to be ordered and mailed, gifts to purchase, and more. Remember to stop and take note of your stress and pain, and take some time to take care of YOU.

I recommend you try this brief guided meditation by Kristin Neff, PhD – Self-Compassion Break.

2 – Remember that we’re all in this together.

You are NOT alone. You may think your friends have it all together with their early holiday cards and their gorgeous feasts (which you can now see thanks to social media). Trust me on this one…we’re all stressed.

It’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one up late thawing your turkey in the bathtub the night before Thanksgiving.

3 – Have gratitude for family…whether they drive us nuts or not!

My spiritual teachers have taught me to be grateful for the difficult people in my life, because they give me the opportunity to practice patience, kindness, equanimity, and compassion. I’m not saying that all family members are difficult, but let’s be real. Sometimes our family members drive us bananas whether we adore them or not. Let’s try being grateful that they offer us the chance to practice.

4 – All you need is love.

Let’s all do our best to share love and light this holiday season. The holidays are difficult for many of us, so do what you can to reach out to people in your life who might be going through a rough spot.

If you’re the one going through a tough time, be sure to open yourself to the compassion of others. Ask for help from your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members.

May your days be merry, bright, and full of compassion for yourself and others.

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