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Good Thoughts and Wishes from Annie Highwater

hand holding glass ball with reflection of water and sky

As we enter the home stretch of 2021, here are Annie’s wise and caring reflections on the hidden burdens others may be carrying—and some quick tips for staying strong yourself. 

hand holding glass ball with reflection of water and sky
©Sindre Strøm/

December is here! 

We are heading into the last month of the year! We all know that it can be one of the busiest and even the most stressful. Remember to take time to pause…to breathe…and to be compassionate, with yourself as much as with your Loved Ones and others around you. We truly don’t know what anyone else might be wrestling with or going through. 

I recently listened to a teaching that touched on this notion. The speaker discussed psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of eight stages of psychosocial development,and howmany people arenot only navigating mental and emotional difficulties, but may be overwhelmed with deep, introspectiveruminations as well.  

These theorized stages give great food for thought when considering what might be occurring within the mind and emotions of our Loved Ones, as well as other family, friends and people we encounter throughout our day:  

  • Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust, from birth to one year old 
  • Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, ages 1-3 years old 
  • Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt, ages 3-6 years old 
  • Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority, ages 6-12 years old 
  • Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion, ages 12-20 years old 
  • Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation, ages 20-40 years old 
  • Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation, ages 40-65 years old 
  • Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair, ages 65 and up 

  * * * 

Here’s another thought I like to share: it’s always worth considering that what might be regarded as a big deal to someone else, someone with heightened or chronic stress…may not be as noticeable a stressor to you or me. 

* * * 

This month, whether gathering with Loved Ones or just in passing moments, it’s wise to allow for some healthy holiday boundaries and peace-protecting strategies. All of these are perfectly acceptable choices in situations involving Loved Ones, family, in-laws, friends, and others: 

  • Pay attention to your emotions. 
  • Listen to your body. 
  • Excuse yourself if someone baits you, gossips, triangulates or is passive-aggressive (or plain aggressive and rude) in their behavior. 
  • Decide how long you want to stay—leaving early can be a profound energy saver. 
  • Say, “I’d rather not get into this subject right now” to questions you’re not prepared (or don’t want) to answer.  
  • Plan activities that bring you peace and joy. 

* * * 

Remember: when we hold off on viewing others and their behavior as good or bad, and instead consider them as possibly healthy versus unhealthy—the judgment lifts, our compassion broadens, and we become more inclined toward solutions.  

I wish you well, 



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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)