The holidays. Just the mere mention of this time of year can elicit all sorts of emotions within us. How about you? Does it bring memories of joy, laughter and happiness? Perhaps. But for most of us, it also brings something else…stress! There is so much to do! Shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, wrapping gifts, mailing out Christmas cards, attending Christmas parties and going to gatherings with family and friends. And unfortunately for those struggling with chronic health issues, this time of year takes an even greater toll on our bodies and can leave you feeling absolutely depleted physically, emotionally and even spiritually. To help you better survive and thrive during this time of year, I would like to share with you five things you can do to help support your health during the added stress of this season.
1. Accept Yourself as You Are – Many of us struggling with chronic health issues also experience other limitations. Your body is likely not as strong physically as it used to be, fatigue may be a constant companion for you, you may have gained weight and do not see yourself as attractive as you once were, your mind may be a bit foggy and your confidence level may have suffered. I know, because this is what happened to me. And if you are like so many women, your response is to withdraw from the outside world and crawl inside your shell until you feel better, but this is very hard to do during this time of year. So what do you do? My prayer for you is that you pause and reflect on the beautiful person that you are! Despite these physical challenges, you are still the same person with the same heart and soul and your health challenges do not change these aspects of you. Focus on and connect with the love and passion you have for people and life…because that is who you really are!
2. Listen to Your Body – There are so many extra demands placed upon you during this time of year and it is essential that you learn to listen to your body. If you are experiencing fatigue or pain or even depression, stop and ask yourself what can you do to support your body. When your body says it is tired or in pain please stop and give it the rest it needs! In the long run, you will get more done and it will help protect your body from dipping into a worse state of being. And even more, it will give you renewed energy with which to enjoy your family and friends!
3. Learn to Let Go – of Even the Good Things – There are so many good and worthy activities that we can invest ourselves in during the holiday season. But the problem is that we have a very limited supply of energy for each day. It is as if we are a little oil lamp and once all the oil in our vessel is burned the light goes out and all we can do is sit on the couch or go to bed. So what do you do? You need to learn to say no---to even the good things and activities. You may not be able to attend every holiday party that you are invited to. Maybe you order gifts online rather than running around from store to store. You don’t need to bake 6 different types of Christmas cookies; one or two will be just fine. And it is okay to enlist the help of others. Most of our loved ones will be more than happy to help out to give you the rest you need to survive this time of year. Remember, your health is paramount. And to have the energy to enjoy the most important activities of this holiday season, you must learn to say no.
4. Practice Good Self-Care – Good self-care is taking the time to care for you. And believe it or not this is very difficult for many of us to do! We are so focused on serving others and meeting their needs that we put off taking care of our own needs, especially during this time of year. Here is what I suggest that you do. Make a list of activities that restore you, such as taking a walk in nature, listening to soft music, taking a warm bath or getting a relaxing massage. Then make sure that you take time each day to love on yourself by doing one of these activities. Do not feel guilty if you do these. You are valuable to so many people and you deserve it!
5. Take Time to Fill Your Joy Cup – Everyone has a joy cup. And studies have shown that when your joy cup is full, it helps to regulate your emotions, your pain and your immune system. And it also releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Isn’t that amazing! Just imagine how much better you might feel if you can fill your joy cup! So how do you fill your joy cup? In a nutshell, you build your joy capacity through loving, fulfilling relationships. We experience joy when we are with someone who is glad to be with us; time with this person produces warm, happy feelings. So you need to ask yourself, who do you have in your life that brings joy to you when you are together. It could be your spouse, a sibling, a good friend. But think about who the person or persons is(are) and purpose to spend fun time with them. Don’t say that you don’t have time, because this is the very thing that will give you the strength and energy to enjoy this holiday season!
I hope that you will take the time to implement these 5 steps. I know that it will take some of your precious time and energy to do these things, but in the big picture it will help you find greater joy and contentment during the next several weeks. My prayer for you is that these steps will help you to not only survive – but thrive – this holiday season!