A Counselor’s Guide to Advent

Advent is a season of preparation and waiting for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. In what the world views as one of the busiest times of the year, Advent stands as a welcome contrast, inviting us to slow and pause. Advent is an invitation to let go of striving, to let go of the chase for perfection, to let go of the anxiety, and to just breathe and rest.

Advent is an invitation to sit with the uncomfortable, the unfinished, and the imperfect. This feels a lot like the counseling process. Even as a counselor, I’m tempted to want to help people feel better quickly and see fast changes. In reality, this typically isn’t the way change works. Change needs time, intentionality, and patience. This is Advent. In this waiting lies gifts and lessons that we need for the next season. We can’t just skip over the hard parts; if we do, we diminish the gift of Christmas. We can’t skip the cross and death of Christ; we have to go through it to get to the Resurrection. This is the messy middle of the counseling process where the excitement of new learning and insight has worn off, painful memories and hard truths are coming to light, and the hope of things getting any better can be difficult to cling to. This can be one of the most challenging parts of the counseling process. But it is right in the heart of this where the healing takes place. When we can build the resilience to sit with the discomfort and the pain and show ourselves compassion, we can be transformed.

When we’re faced with our weaknesses, our bad habits, our negative thinking, or whatever else we don’t like about ourselves, our minds have a tendency to turn to numbing or denial. We tend to ignore negative feelings and the call to address our behaviors that aren’t serving us. We can live in this autopilot mode for a long time without really noticing the deeper issues. Advent calls us to stop and take notice. What are you running from? What are you scared you will find waiting for you without the distractions and the busyness?

The call of Advent is to put down the hurriedness and the rushing and to work on becoming mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In this space, we can listen to what our soul truly needs and what God wants to speak to us.

Here are some practical ways we can slow down this Advent:

-Instead of multitasking, only do one thing at a time at all times.

-Make time to sit and let your mind wander without the distraction of a phone or television.

-Buy one less present for everyone on your list. Instead, commit to having an intentional conversation with that person and tell them what you love about them.

-Look at your to do lists and projects for the month and choose a few to move to next month.

-Be present to the people around you. Look your loved ones in the eye when you ask them “How are you?” and really listen when they share. Give your friends and family the gift of your full presence.

There are many ways to celebrate Advent and prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. The most important way to celebrate Advent is the way that your mind, body, and soul need. Take time to recognize what you need in this season, and make your needs a priority. You serve no one by neglecting yourself. You are worth it, so much so that a great King became a small child born into a dirty manger so that you would know His love. 

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