I scrolled through Facebook early this morning to learn many of my friends expressing feelings of loss, sadness, disappointment, and frustration on the eve of Sukkot, the time which is meant to be a time for happiness.
“All I want to do is curl up in a ball and go back to sleep.”
“This holiday is going to be really tough.”
“This is not supposed to be happening!”
COVID and Sukkot
As Israel seems to be on the brink of a catastrophe in its fight against COVID-19, its citizens have been warned that the traditional gathering in one another’s sukkah can be a recipe for a disaster this year. Traditionally, Jews eat, sleep, and commune in the mostly closed space (albeit outside) for the seven straight days on the holiday. The primitive styled booths are built to commemorate the time the Israelites wandered in the dessert after being freed from slavery in Egypt.
This year, the Health Ministry issued warnings and a complex set of regulations as to how to celebrate during the COVID pandemic. Between presently being in the midst of a national lockdown to the limitations of guests to the restrictions regarding eating and sleeping in one’s own sukkah, people are (rightfully so) feeling quite stuck.
It is quite natural to feel emotional during this time. We are living in a new reality and each of us needs to determine how to traverse through it, not only in order to get by, but to fulfill the mitzvot (commandments) of Sukkot, including, “And you shall rejoice in your Festival”(Deuteronomy 16:14).
One of the most effective ways I have found to deal with emotionally challenging situations is to use The unSTUCK Method, a simple, step-by-step self-help tool that guides people out of any “stuck” spot in order to feel better in any moment, anytime, anywhere.
S – STOP
When we are in the midst of any emotionally challenging moment, our minds have a tendency to blame the people and circumstances outside of us for how we are feeling. We tend to loop inside our own stories trying to prove to ourselves and to others that we are 100% right. When we are stuck we reaffirm our own beliefs to ourselves and reinforce our own point of view. When we are stuck, we know we are right, and everyone else around us is wrong.
Yet, staying stuck inside our own stories never gets us unSTUCK. So, the first step to getting unSTUCK is to take a stop. By stopping, I mean offering yourself the opportunity to pause and redirect your attention away from the story at hand to something else that is tangible in the present moment, such as your breath. Bringing your attention to your breath (and perhaps even taking one complete breath), separates you from your story and begins the process that will ultimately guide you to a place of emotional well-being.
T – TELL
We all have emotions. Lots of them. It is a natural and inevitable part of human life. Even if we try to suppress our emotions, emotions still exist. Identifying and giving ourselves permission to feel our emotions is an essential part of this process because it is our attachment to our feelings (and our thoughts) that causes us to feel stuck on something in the first place.
This step offers you an opportunity to access your feelings. Identify which emotion you are attached to and express it in this way, “I am stuck on…” (I am stuck on disappointment, for example.) While in casual conversation you may say, “I am disappointed,” by telling yourself “I am stuck on disappointment” instead, you give your brain a critical message that while you may be holding on to a certain emotion, that emotion is not your identity. Once you identify and declare what you are stuck on, allow yourself to feel that emotion in your body.
U – UNCOVER
The source of every stuck spot is a thought. The only reason we get stuck on something in the first place is due to our thinking about the situation. The circumstances that occur outside of us are always neutral. It is our thinking that we place on top of those circumstances that create a charge on them. In this step we gather up as many beliefs are possibly that we may have about the current situation in order to determine the source of our stuck spot so that we can continue moving towards getting unSTUCK.
Just like in the previous step, there is a recommended way to articulate your beliefs. Begin each sentence with, “I believe…” as opposed to just naming them one by one. As you state each beliefs, reflect upon each one. Check each one’s validity. As yourself, “Is this 100% true?” “Would the whole world agree this is true?” “Can my thought be proven in a court of law?” Keep in mind that most of our beliefs are not entirely true, they are what is called “limiting beliefs” which more often than not include the words, “always, never, should, needs to, etc.”
By declaring, “I believe…” you are affirming that your beliefs are not facts, and therefore they can be questioned and examined, and when appropriate, released. Notice if any of your beliefs do not entirely hold true. Be honest with yourself. You may uncover feelings of shame or embarrassment with some of the things that come to mind. Don’t worry. Your beliefs do not reflect who you are as a whole, but rather serve to support your feelings in that current moment.
For example, “I believe this shouldn’t be happening. I believe this holiday is going to be the worst ever. I believe everyone is going to be depressed.”
I admit that none of those beliefs are entirely true.
C – CONSIDER
The moment you notice one or more of your beliefs is not 100% true is the moment you begin to realize the foundation of your story may be weak and even baseless. That is, we recognize that the story we had in mind is exactly that, a story; based on a narrow perspective rooted in current emotions and fixed ways of thinking.
By considering other perspectives to the story, we acknowledge that being stuck on an emotion limits our view, and we deliberately seek other viewpoints so we can see better. Expand your mind’s capacity to think more broadly to include all imaginable angles and perspectives for this particular situation.
When taking on new considerations, you shift from emotional responses to rational thinking. At this point, you may not actually accept all the considerations you bring to mind. That is fine. All you need to do is acknowledge them as possibilities. I’ve found the most useful way to articular considerations is through sentences beginning with, “I can consider that…”
I can consider that this actually is meant to be happening because it is.
I can consider despite everything, I will be able to find a way to create joy on this holiday.
I can consider this is temporary.
I can consider being grateful for what I have.
I can consider creativity.
I can consider modeling for my children the values I want them to learn from me.
I can consider next year will be better.
Choose at least one new perspective to take on. You, and only you, can make this choice. Getting stuck is personal, and therefore, so is getting unSTUCK. Because our thoughts create our emotions, once you take on a new thought, you’ll to feel a shift in how you are feeling, as you begin to cradle your emotions in a new way of thinking. Which consideration would you take on?
K – KINDNESS
There may be a moment while in the process of getting unSTUCK that you feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment for getting stuck on something in the first place. This step reminds you to be compassionate towards yourself.
We all get stuck on something and it’s OK. If we don’t hold ourselves in compassion when we get stuck, we’d be beating ourselves up everyday. Accept your human imperfections and forgive yourself. Remind yourself what you were stuck on (in the TELL step), place your hands over your heart if that resonates with you, and affirm the following, “I got stuck on “x” and it’s OK.”
By ceremoniously closing the process, you offer yourself the opportunity to move on to emotional well-being, without allowing your emotions to fester.
As we celebrate Sukkot this year and challenge ourselves to create joy despite the obstacles we face, my wish is that each of us will take advantage of the God-given opportunity to take our stuck spots and turn them into sources for energy and positive change, not only for our sake, but for the sake of those we love.