The holidays can be overwhelming. For individuals and families dealing with personal grief, loneliness, economic concerns, illness, separation and divorce this time of year can be especially taxing. This holiday season consider using the The Sanctuary Model’s “Community Meeting Tool” with friends and family to check in with one another.

What’s a Community Meeting?

It is an opportunity to make emotional connections and share struggles with a group in a structured and focused way. With your friends and family establish a predictable time and place to check in. Some families check in over breakfast, friends might call one another mid-day, while others close the day with a check in before bed. By creating a healthy ritual, you normalize the opportunity to share and care for one another.

After establishing a time to check in with one another, the group goes around asking each other three questions.

Community Meeting Questions:

  1. How are you feeling? (Click here for a “Feeling Words” identifier)
  2. What’s your goal for the day?
  3. Who can you ask for help?

These three questions are based in trauma theory.

Community Meeting Trauma Theory:

  1. How are you feeling? This question encourages emotional identification. Traumatized people often experience alexithymia (an inability to give words for how they feel). We increase emotional intelligence by learning new words for feelings. It is easier to help each other when we know their emotional states. When people are hurt they forget how they feel.
  1. What is your goal for today? Individual goals create structure and a cognitive focus. Everyone in the community has a daily goal that informs how they feel, think and act. Traumatized people with insecure attachments or with low self-esteem need to have a goal to relearn to live with a purpose. Goals help everyone to stay on track. Everyone needs a goal to move on.
  1. Who will you ask for help? Asking for help repairs attachment deficits for people who have lost faith that others will care and help them. Learning to help others takes us out of our own problems and promotes positive self-worth by caring and helping others. People forget that they can rely on other people.

Every Keep Oregon Well meeting begins with a Community Meeting. This tool helps us build rapport as a team in order to best support each other. During the holiday season, external pressure and expectations can amplify stress. Take time to check in with your friends and family. Be mindful of your self-care. Maintain regular routines as much as possible such as, sleep patterns, meal schedules, regular exercise, medication schedules, appointments, etc.


Sanctuary Implementation Guide (2011)

“Coping with the Holidays” National Alliance on Mental Illness


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