Unexpected Gifts During Holiday Disasters and Stress

Surprise Gifts during the Holidays

Noticing the events, activities, conversations, and experiences during the Holidays brings unexpected gifts.

Perceptions determine the value of the gift received and determines the depth of the lessons we will receive.

Facebook offers a unique bird’s-eye view of many people, from all walks of life, during the holidays. Recently I noticed that the posts which mention dread, or problematic experiences that range from unexpected deaths to unexpected relatives, have greatly out-numbered those posts which are filled with Christmas cheer and gratitude.

This is not because people aren’t necessary thankful or grateful for family, friends, and life in general, it’s because with the holidays comes heightened stress and challenging confrontations or unexpected events. Emotions are on an all time high with many people and triggers from the past rise to the surface which color an individuals perception of these holiday moments.

Ask better questionsThere is a scripture that comes to mind that use to confuse me a great deal. On the surface, I tried and tried to ‘enjoy’ or be joyful about trials, but all I ended up with was feeling defeated and overwhelmed.  Here’s the verse …

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.… James 1:2″

Now, at a much older age, I get it. We don’t like trials, but if it weren’t for trials, we’d never grow in character, in mind, emotionally or spiritually.  It is like the wind resisting a bird’s wing that causes it to fly, or the water that resists a fish’s fin that allows it to slide through the water effortlessly.

marshmallow-roastThe question is how does someone get the most out of a trial? Hey – if trials are going to come, because they are inevitably, you might as well get something out of the effort that it will cost you to navigate through that challenging season — don’t you think?

When an event happens, it’s usually suddenly. Some are expected, but the ones that get the best of us, come suddenly. Our guards are down and unattended emotional triggers are vulnerable. Perhaps an event is an accusation that someone brings to you that is incorrect or a down right lie. Perhaps it is only their perception and not their interpretation of events that you see as lies.  

Sudden stormYou know those moments.  An email is opened, or a phone call answered and your peaceful day is shattered by an accusation or unwanted news. An emotional bolt of fear shakes you to the core and your heart begins to race. “No! This can’t be!” you say to yourself as you frantically search your memories for the cause of this event, or information that will help make sense of the news you’ve just heard.


Your first red flag is the immediate assumption for the worse case scenario.  Why?

  • Sometimes our fears will read into words we read or hear that tell one story, when in fact, that’s not at all what’s being said. 
  • There’s no mistaken the news, you heard it right, but the outcome of failure or disaster is one of the first ‘stories’ that you’ll think of. Understand that, true, this event might bring failure, or is truly disastrous – but that isn’t the final word on the matter, nor is it the only option available. 

What is real and what appears to be real?Noticing the ‘story’ or ‘message’ behind a bit of news is the first thing for you to do. Ask yourself …

  • Is this true?
  • How can you know that it is true?
  • Am I taking this personally, when it’s not a personal issue?
  • How is this affecting how I perceive my worth or identity? (Often the story or message is a negative that confirms fears and toxic belief systems we were taught. These are not the truth, but only appear to be true.)

Every challenge in life offers many options – and many opportunities. What is the opportunity that you are being offered? In order to see them, you have to view the moment with fresh eyes, new thinking and courage.

Sorting through the stories and looking at just the facts will help you navigate these rough waters without over turning your emotional boat.

What facts you need to know are often wrapped up in these five, one-word questions that are classic and easy to remember. Who? What? When” Where? How?

Part of the collection of these facts has to do with understanding your variables.  Is the person giving you this news a person of integrity? authority? maturity?

What personality type are you dealing with? Task? Relationship?  Why does personality matter? Because most conflicts and misunderstandings have to do with communication errors and assumptions.

A task focused person will always see and speak of task issues first. If they are speaking to a relationship person, the relationship focused person may be hearing the conversation as rejection or criticism. The task focused person is completely surprised and put-off by the relational person’s reaction and then assumes that they must be hiding something – so they look for what information might be hiding, assuming that there is a solid reason (not an emotional reason) why the person is reacting the way that they are.

Our courtrooms are filled with lawsuits, divorces and shattered families for this one reason. It affects conversations over relationship, spirituality, health, finances, and life in general. Tread carefully with your stories and assumptions! Gather your facts.


The first thing you need to do when hit with an unexpected event* is to gather your emotional and mental resources and faculties. That may mean you need to shut off the phone, take a walk, listen to inspiring music or exercise. Anything to calm your mind and which will center and clarify your thoughts. Talking to a trusted friend who is a good listener and careful about not fueling fires or taking sides is always helpful, but not always available. 

If you have a Life Coach – this is the person to call. As a Life Coach, we’ve been trained to listen deeply and to ask better questions than the obvious ones. The purpose is to walk you through your challenge while not taking sides or being tied to the outcome. The outcome is determined by you – and the conversation is based upon your agenda, not your coach’s.

If you need to review your emails, facts, or files regarding a legal challenge, avoid getting lost in your stories or theirs. Just look for the facts. Facts speak louder than assumptions. A judge will always rule on facts, not who is the most emotional.

If it is a disaster and affects a family member or sudden medical emergency, you’ll need to notify people and seek the appropriate resources to address the situation.

For the purpose of this discussion, we are focusing on your mental state of mind, not the outcome of an event. Your mind, you can control.  The outcome of events, you can’t.  

Do your research - gather the factsNOTICE your facts versus your story, fear or assumptions – or opinions. Again, just look at the facts. If you see that you are missing an important fact or have made a mistake, this is an opportunity. Learn from it, and correct the issue. Defending yourself and making excuses just prolongs and strengthens a negative event. Nothing surprises an accuser more than saying, “yep, you’re right. I missed that. I take full responsibility. Allow me to correct this for you.”

Never make accusations, take sides or blame anyone. Again, I can’t stress this enough – look for the facts. Look for email conversations, timelines, signed contracts, verbal agreements (that will be a he said, she said type of scenario and subject to other facts.) Look everything over carefully and notice where your emotions are.

Give thanks! You’re in ‘school’ now … learn something! Discover the power of casting down vain imaginations. (Setting the course of your state of mind and intentions will help you to truly rejoice in the trial – because this is an opportunity for you to grow and be strengthened beyond where you are now. 


* An unexpected event is a general term and may not relate to a particular trauma in your life, but the mindful approach applies to everything.

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