Gratitude and pumpkin pie

A small confession: my third year in Canada and I haven’t yet developed a taste for turkey and pumkpin pie. Give me a lamb roast and a slice of pavlova any day! But if there’s one Canadian Thanksgiving tradition I can really sink my teeth into, it’s the whole, well, giving-of-thanks bit.

No doubt, being thankful is kinda hard right now. This year has been a dumpster fire for pretty much everyone on the planet. Indeed, a literal fire for those unlucky enough to suffer the dual catastrophes of a global pandemic and unprecedented mega fires.

Even those of us fortunate enough to be in places with low COVID case-counts and a mere few days of hazardous smoke inhalation have found our lives upheaved in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Separated from family and friends by hard borders and impossible flights, unable to gather with those around us, deprived of our usual social connections and activites… we have plenty of legitimate reason to feel aggrieved.

I’ve certainly seen a spike in my own stress and anxiety. The worry for unreachable family back home, the little jolt of fear as I signed up to staff the COVID assessment clinic, the mounting homesickness, a high pressure new job, a relationship break-up and the increasingly pervasive insomnia have all taken their toll.

I got stuck. Really stuck. I needed help.

Thus, I embarked upon a CBT skills course, a series of sessions with a coach, and a psychology podcast binge. Self-care looks very different these days than the pedicure-and-cocktails of old. Nowdays it looks like a morning hike, a mindfulness exercise and knuckling down to do my psychological homework.

I’ve learned a lot of skills and find it much easier to keep the emotional pot from boiling over, but one particular theme that keeps coming up is the importance of gratitude. It seems a daily reflection of what we’re grateful for can make us happier, more productive and make better decisions for our future selves. (Listen here, for some of the evidence).

So here goes. In 2020, I am grateful for my good physical health, and the health of my family. I’m grateful to have secure employment in a job that lets me leave the house to go and interact with other people. I’m grateful to live in a place where leaders and citizens respect science and do what’s right by each other. I’m grateful for technology to stay connected. I’m grateful for the cancellation of overseas conferences for the time and space to explore my beautiful local corner of the world. I’m grateful for the trigger to work on my psychological wellbeing; I know it will stand me in good stead for many years to come.

Yep. This Canadian Thanksgiving I’ll take a huge serving of gratitude. And a little slice of pie.

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