By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

The holidays have always been a time of emotion and increased stress. People assume everyone else has a perfect family or is having the perfect meal. Scrolling through Facebook, it seems like everyone is so happy. That, however, is not reality. People rarely post about their child who is struggling with an opiate problem or an alcoholic relative who will probably ruin the family holiday. It is kind of like the holiday letters we all receive from people telling us about all the fantastic accomplishments, promotions, honors and all else good they and their kids have experienced. I was actually thrilled when I received one of those letters from a friend last year talking about all the stress and difficulties that her very normal family had experienced. It was just so real and very funny.

This Thanksgiving our country is still in many ways very divided and stressed. We have seen school shootings, shootings in a Church, floods and hurricanes. We are watching as so many women and men are becoming brave enough to disclose histories of sexual abuse and harassment by employers and powerful men. All of these events can leave one feeling scared, anxious and sometimes even depressed or hopeless.

Yet, with a little effort we can often find the many positive things that still outnumber the bad. Even within the negatives there are positives. Although I would never want anyone to be sexually harassed or abused, I am grateful that because so many are now coming forward about their abuse, we have an opportunity to have discussion and finally make a change in our culture. No-one should be afraid to go to work and scared to report abuse. We have talked a lot about what women can do to avoid being sexually assaulted. The conversation can now turn to making sure men know what true consent is and they have no right to sexually harass or abuse anyone.

Gratitude, while sometimes difficult to find, can truly have amazing benefits to our overall mental and physical health. In order to be grateful we need to slow down, slow our minds and learn to enjoy stillness and just being in the present. Stepping outside our digital worlds may seem difficult, but is incredibly freeing. It gives us a chance to ponder what makes us grateful and to appreciate what we have rather than focusing on what we want or feel we are missing.

I am working on trying to appreciate the many small things I have often taken for granted. I am trying to let go of minor annoyances and recognize the difficulties that so many have had to endure in their lives. I am truly inspired by the way so many have handled adversity.

This Thanksgiving, I ask you to give thanks for whatever positives you can see around you. If you are sharing a meal with family or friends take time to share these thoughts. If you have learned to avoid being with toxic people in your life, be grateful. Even things as simple as the taste of a fresh apple, a rainbow, a sunset or a hug from someone you love is important. A great idea is to begin a gratitude jar. Every time you notice something positive in your life or you are grateful for an opportunity that comes your way, write it down and put it in a jar. When you are feeling down, Open the jar and read what you have written.

I want to wish everyone a relaxing and peaceful Thanksgiving. I would also like to extend a special “thank you” to the WRCH family, especially Allan, Mike and Mary, for giving me this opportunity to provide information on mental health to so many people on air and in this weekly blog.

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