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Many people find peace hard to obtain during the holidays. There are many painful things that come to mind, often having to do with family. If there isn't peace in your family,these things are often on your mind. Your mind often thinks about things you wish you can do to create peace. However, often, the sad reality is there is nothing you can do to change the way things are. Your best bet is to accept that. Accepting that and focusing on the things you have control over is often called the practice of "radical acceptance." This is something I teach patients to practice all the time. I even practice it myself. However, there are some things which seem to just agitate like a virus that won't go way. Sometimes, you need to practice a radical form of radical acceptance. If you are not spiritual, you may be left with the behavioral and cognitive approaches that I teach many clients; e.g., do something nice for someone else, i.e., create peace in someone else's life. Acts of kindness are the antidote to many ills that befall our minds and hearts. No matter how poor you are, you can always give a smile, hold open a door, pick up something that somebody dropped, give a compliment etc. Often you will find that the thing that was bothering you has left your mind, and is no longer so troublesome.

However, sometimes there are those thoughts and pains that will not be denied, like a medication resistant staph infection. For many, you can continue to do more of the above and just challenge the negative thoughts and feelings with a greater amount of peace and joy created by your own kind choices and acts. You might as the old song says, "Name Your Blessings, Count Them One by One ." Whether these are the few possessions, friends, dignities, abilities, and/or memories that you have remaining; these are all blessings--name them; count them.

Nonetheless, I find some things are greater than my best efforts. It is at times like this that I'm thankful that I am spiritual, and open to One Who is greater than me. I hope you who may be reading have spiritual resources to turn to. If yours are not the Judeo-Christian ones, I hope they're helpful; however, I am not able to speak to those as I do not practice them. It was during a Christmas presentation at my church that one of these treatment-resistant thoughts bubbled up and interfered with my enjoyment of singing cattle and camels. I know why the thoughts came; I tried to quickly remind myself that there's nothing I can do about the situation and to readjust my focus. However, the thoughts just kept pouring in from all directions, like "what if you did this?... maybe they are thinking that... maybe... what if?..." and I just wanted to scream! It's just these kinds of thoughts that can make you want to beat your head against the wall. Now mind you, I'm sitting amongst a bunch of people I care about (the people of our congregation), I have the two youngest of my five blessings sitting on my lap, and my beautiful wife is sitting at the end of the row with our other three blessings hemmed in between us. Just meditating on this usually sends peace running throughout my body, mind, and heart. It was at this time that our pastor, talking on the advent of our Savior in a cattle stall, brought up what it's like to be a shepherd. Sometimes your sheep get infected with a worm that eats at the brain. The sheep are helpless to do anything about it. However, the pain is maddening and they will literally beat themselves to death to try to alleviate the pain. How I am a sheep when I have such maddening thoughts. For the sheep that have a good shepherd, they can find relief in an oil that is poured over the head. The sheep can actually survive having the worm eat through some of their brain. It is then that I realized that I have a Great Shepherd, who was born amongst sheep to become the Good Shepherd, who can pour oil over my head and bring me peace about these maddening things of which I have no control. It's my Good Shepherd to whom I can cry and converse, and I find a peace overwhelms me which I could not create myself. Perhaps it is conversing with One Whom I believe can change the circumstance at any moment, and I find that I can rest and wait on His timing, being fully confident that He does care. Whether you believe in such a Savior or not, I truly wish you great peace during this Christmas, Hanukkah, and holiday season and throughout your year. Many blessings to you!

Dr. J.

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