A Whole-y Jolly Christmas

It’s upon us! That time of year that is both exhilarating and exhausting, magical and mind-spinning… you get the idea. It’s the holiday season and as I get older I realize that for too many years I’ve just barely limped through the holidays. I wanted to share a few tips that have proven helpful to me in my personal journey toward a healthy mind, body and spirit. 

Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.

George F. McDougall

Okay, I won’t get too mystical here, but I do believe you can’t talk about the holidays without addressing what it “truly means” to you and your tribe. On that note, we’ll tackle SPIRIT first. 

SPIRIT

What does Christmas/ “the” holidays/ this season actually mean to you? As a Christian my season does (or should) center around celebrating the birth of Christ.  In my house, we love starting out December with a daily Advent devotional, celebrating the life and times of St. Nicholas and having a big ‘ole birthday party for Jesus. And don’t worry, we still love Santa, write our letters, make our lists, check them five hundred times. 

As a new mom I used to get really caught up in creating the perfect Christmas moments for my boys and EVEN WORSE the perfect post-able photos. UGH! I’m embarrassed to even type out those words.  In my quest to create some magic for my family, the outcome was quite the opposite. I was run down, rushed, sleep deprived and not joyful. And forget actually taking a moment to remember Jesus. 

I’m not sure when it clicked; that I was NOT a Griswald, and didn’t need to outdo the Jones’s with my Christmas displays. I could create a meaningful and very magical Christmas experience for my kids in my own way.  Starting the Advent devotional was the best thing that ever happened to us. We end every evening reading a reflection and prayer about why we celebrate this season. This may not be your style or how you choose to do the holidays, but my challenge is this: FIND WHAT MAKES YOU PAUSE AND PONDER DURING THE HOLIDAYS. Maybe it’s mindfulness, gratitude, acts of service- Find. that. thing!

BODY

We’re fast approaching the date when everyone decides they’re going to be healthy…for two weeks. Groan. Let’s not hang out here.

It’s easy to get physically depleted during this time of year. We’re traveling, participating in extra parties, making some of the most delicious goodies of the whole year. I’m not here to tell you to abstain from any of those things- they’re all good.

For me all things in moderation becomes my mantra this time of year. Christmas cookies? In moderation. Wine? In moderation. But lets also add a few other good things to our list: moving our bodies, drinking water, eating lots of fresh vegetables. I wouldn’t in a million years advise anyone (or myself) to adopt any hard and fast rules about eating or fitness this time of year. I feel, in general, success comes through gradual, MODERATE changes (in most cases).

Here are my goals for the next month:

  • Eat a fresh, raw vegetable with every meal. YES, EVERY MEAL! For me this usually means tossing some mixed greens with a yummy infused balsamic and some olive oil for breakfast. For real, folks, breakfast salads changed my life!
  • Move my body every day. A brisk walk around the house, up and down the steps a few extra times, or most preferably getting myself, my kids, and our pup outside.
  • Focused exercise 3 times per week. This includes some intense cardio and lifting weights. You’ll be amazed what this can do for your body and your mental health!
  • DRINK WATER!!!! Take your body weight, cut it in half and that’s the amount of water (in ounces) you should be consuming every day. I’m taking to myself here, too! Find a cute tumbler you like, throw in some fruit slices and ice and keep refilling throughout the day

MIND

For those of us who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or lack of the ideal family situation, the holidays can be a very tricky time of year. There are so many opportunities for these magical, card-worthy moments and I can sometimes get caught up in the lack I’m feeling. Now-a-days I feel the sting when I attend my kid’s Christmas programs. All of the grandparents proudly sporting their Christmas best, snapping pics of their little legacies. You see, even though my dad has been gone almost 20 years and mom and step-dad are amazing grands, I still can’t help but remember my own proud father at these productions and how much he would have adored attending every one now. The potential to circle the drain is so strong.

And here is where I make a choice. A sometimes-harder-than-others choice. I choose to remember my dad, my grandparents and other loved ones who’ve passed and how they celebrated Christmas. I choose to make my Granny’s gingerbread or try (with much failure) to ice skate backwards while holding my kids’ hands, like my dad did for me. I talk about these people with my kids A LOT. I share favorite memories and look at photos. MOST OF ALL, I honor them by NOT sinking into despair or feeling like I’ve been robbed of something. I honor them by CHOOSING JOY DURING THE HOLIDAYS!

So maybe your holiday angst doesn’t come from this same sort of loss, but something you’re longing for or waiting for. Make a choice to acknowledge those feelings without letting them be the focus or driving force of your holiday. Give voice and name to those feelings (don’t ignore) but don’t hang out with them. Put yourself in a better position this year. Maybe that means changing up your traditions; serving at a feeding center, not going into debt to purchase gifts, inviting someone new into your celebrations. Just think about it and make a better choice. 

Now for something a little more light-hearted, head over to my recipes page where I’ve shared my Granny’s gingerbread with a few tweaks of my own!

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