Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Focusing on What's Important

By Sarah Myers, Esq., LMFT, LAC
Executive Director, Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program

Most of us are approaching this holiday season after a year (or years) of drastic change, loss, fear, and stress. Part of well-being and developing strong behavioral health is being able to recognize, honor, and mourn who and what we have lost while also finding the strength to feel appreciation and express gratitude. Acknowledging pain and loss while appreciating what we have is a tricky balance, particularly on the heels of a lingering global pandemic. The important thing is to make time for both, and to understand that feeling positive emotions does not mean we are dishonoring or forgetting those we have lost. We can find things to laugh about even when we are grieving. And we can experience bittersweet sorrow even in moments of joy. Our experiences and emotions are complex and layered, and we can make the most of this holiday season in simple ways that recognize and honor this principle.

  1. Make a list, and/or tell someone close to you, what you are grateful for. Research confirms that verbalizing or writing what we are appreciative of improves both our mental and physical health. It can be a long list, or simply name a few things every morning or night during the holiday season leading up to the New Year.
  2. Voice appreciation and actively look for kindness. It’s easy to get “stuck” in our own minds, and to focus on upsetting or negative things. Dedicating some time each day to focus on others helps us keep our own life situations in better perspective.
  3. Anticipate interruption and rescheduling, and generally lower your expectations. When we have rigid expectations of how things “should” be, we are almost always let down. Don’t sabotage this holiday season by setting unrealistic goals for yourself or anyone else. Be flexible with plans; from travel glitches to supply chain issues, it’s likely that we’ll need to “go with the flow” even more this year than past years.
  4. Don’t underestimate the time it will take to complete holiday tasks. Rather than running around like a “chicken with its head cut off” because you double-booked your time, create a timeline for yourself for all the things you need to accomplish. Add at least 30-60 minutes to each one.
  5. Remind yourself to SLOW DOWN. When you find your mind or body racing around, or you feel yourself becoming agitated, angry, or overwhelmed, remember to breathe. Stress creates chemicals in the body that cloud rational thought and decision making.
  6. Keep up your self-care! When we are busy and stressed out, we often start neglecting the very tools that help us get through stressful times unscathed: getting enough sleep, eating regularly, drinking enough water, and exercising.

If you or a colleague could use support this holiday season, contact your free and confidential Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) at (303) 986-3345 or email us at for a consultation.