December is upon us and for those of you who live in the United States and Europe; it is a season of darkness. To compound the bleakness, if you live on the East Coast, you have recently experienced Storm Sandy and might have been without power. There are also other forms of darkness; you might suffer from the darkness of depression, loneliness, chronic pain or grief. In each situation, life appears to be dark and the challenge is to bring light into it.

I wrote this month’s article to motivate myself as well as you. It turns out, last month’s bike accident was more serious then I originally thought; I fractured some ribs. The upshot is that it will take about 2 months to heal. The consequences: limited exercise, difficulty sleeping, muscle spasms and no hugs. In addition, December is usually a challenging month for me because the lack of light causes a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder; a kind of depression that occurs, in the winter. Finally, to challenge me even more, most of my family lives in New York and were stranded with no power or gasoline for over a week. To say that I was not my most positive self the past few weeks is an understatement. In fact, my patience level was so low that I actually leaned on the horn a few times when driving.

If “darkness” was my reality, I needed to figure out what I could do to make it brighter. How could I light a candle? I found the following strategies helpful:

Stay in the Moment and immerse yourself completely in it. In one of his songs, Jason Mraz sings, “I will not waste my days making up all kinds of ways to worry about some things that will not happen to me.” We often worry about things that will never happen. Yet even when situations are worse than we could ever have imagined and we find that we are given the grace to go through it. The only information that you have is at hand. By focusing on the moment, you quiet the unnecessary rumination, the “what if’s” that take place inside and become better able to respond rather than react to that which is before you.

Accept life the way it is and focus on what you do have control over rather than resist what is going on in the moment. Resilient people focus the majority of their attention and time on what they have control over. The questions to explore are, “How can I best respond to this situation?” “How can I make my situation more tolerable?” The reality is that I have fractured ribs. While I can’t do much exercise, I can take long walks. My family was stranded in NY without power. I could not go pick them up but I could contact other people who were in the position to get them to CT in order to stay with me.

Focus on what is equally true and count your blessings. My injury is temporary. I have clients who live with constant chronic pain. My injury gives me much more compassion for them and helps me realize that sometimes cheerfulness is easier said than done. The lack of power was temporary and SAD is a transitory condition that I get through come mid January. What is also true is that I have a great fireplace that warms up my house and my spirits.

Take time for yourself and lean toward joy. Take a step back from the stress and do something that nurtures you; it will help you to be a blessing for others. Studies have shown that happy people have more energy to be of service to others. Even when you are in a trying situation, there are usually little things that you can do calm yourself down. Take time to become more aware of nature, listen to relaxing music, and wear soft, comfortable clothes. In doing so, you l change the chemistry in your brain, you become calmer, expand your heart and increase your ability to nurture yourself and others.

Light a Candle for Others. During storm Sandy, I was impressed by the generosity of those I knew as well as stories in the newspaper. My cousin drove to LI to rescue my father and meet me half way, even though he had very little gas. Friends drove into NYC at night to evacuate my daughter because there were no subways or trains running. She then went and stayed with her sister for the rest of the week. Hotels offered lobbies. Even the Pittsburg Steelers elected to fly in on Game Day so that the displaced could stay in their hotel rooms! Random acts of kindness and an opportunity to be a light for others.

Adversity is a fact of life. We can stay cranky and curse the darkness or light a candle for ourselves and others. Yes, I am still in pain and the darkness outside is increasing. What can I do to bring joy to this moment? First of all, I allow myself to feel discouraged and miserable from time to time, and then I focus on what is also true. I look around and notice what is positive. I wear colorful clothes because they make me happy. I smile even though I want to rip people’s heads off. I take deep breaths and send my impatience away. I apologize to people because I am cranky and ask them not to take my irritation personally. I listen to happy music and I do things that fill me with joy and above all I tell myself “this too shall pass”.

"Our role in life is to bring the light of our own souls to the dim places around us". Joan Chittister

Author's Bio: 

JoAnne Ceccarelli-Egan, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker provides marital counseling and individual counseling. She has integrated clinical knowledge with spirituality and offers practical suggestions that help clients have more harmonious relationships. She has a recorded self help CD Journey Back to Self and writes monthly self improvement tips that can find on Facebook or her website,