I have always loved Christmas. It is a holiday which has been shrouded in awe, majesty, music, and love for as long as I can remember. Right around this time of year ten years ago, my mother had a stroke and eventually died. Since then, the holiday season has also been a time where I struggle with intense sadness and a sense of loss. For many, the holidays are a painful reminder of someone who is no longer with them for one reason or another. In fact, if we aren’t careful, the holiday season can be a perfect storm wreaking havoc on our mental health. If like me, you know that you have mixed emotions surrounding the season, there are a lot of things you can do to help you enjoy more of the reds, and golds, and less of the blues.
Once the holiday season hits, excitement builds and with it, stress. I might stay up later, or get up earlier resulting in a loss of sleep. I may indulge in too many sweets, rich food, or even have a drink or two. I start worrying about how to get the ones I love gifts that will make them smile. Everywhere I go, there are items I feel I should be buying, the neighbors are decorating their houses, and the newspapers and commercials are filled with holiday sales advertisements. The thorough blanketing of Christmas promotion is enough to make you believe that all of the tangibles are what the season is about.
So this year, as I wait to flip the calendar page, I’m going to stop and do a little planning. Not the kind I’ve done in the past who gets what, where to get it, & how much it costs. Nope, I’m going to plan on doing the things that will actually help me and my family enjoy this season for what it is, a physical representation of love, self-sacrifice, hope, and redemption. I think my Christmas list needs a little revamping:
- Get enough sleep & rest
- Get some type of exercise – long walks, fresh air jogs, or living room dance-offs
- Eat nutritious meals & avoid sweets or carb overindulging
- Be mindful of limits
- Get some sunshine
- Have realistic expectations
- Reach out to friends, family and lost connections
- Enjoy the moment (mind pictures make longer-lasting impressions than photographs)
- Share old stories and traditions
- Pace myself, prioritize, and delegate
- Quality & sentiment is more important than quantity when it comes to gift-giving – set a budget.
- Sing, listen to music, dance, laugh
- Find ways to make holiday “chores” family fun – like making Christmas cookies or decorations
- Create memories & new traditions and cherish old ones
- Give myself a break. It’s ok to feel sad when I think about who I wish were still there to celebrate. It’s ok to feel lonely. It’s ok to wish things were a little different. Most importantly, it’s ok to not feel bad about feeling bad.
Some of my fondest Christmas memories were of very lean Christmases when we all made decorations for a tree that was too weak and flimsy to hold up anything heavier than foam or balsam wood; when we hand-crafted presents for our loved ones; and, could count the number of presents under the tree without involving toes. This year, we decided that most of our presents and decorations should again be home-made and I’m looking forward to it because the thing I love most about the season is spending it with the ones I love and making them each something from the heart just prolongs the feeling.
A merry heart does good like medicine. Proverbs 17:22
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29