Part 1 of 2: 'Tis the Season to Take Care of Yourself, too
Recently, my son mentioned that he sometimes goes back and watches bits of 2019 New Year videos on YouTube. There’s something about seeing the world in that moment before a pandemic upended it. The raucous joy, the big plans, the innocent assumption that all would be business as usual—only better, of course, in the coming year. For most of us, now almost two years later, the lens on life has dramatically shifted. We may be regrouping, recovering from loss, or still holding our breath as we look forward. In my mind, it’s a holiday season to treat ourselves gently as we prep a solid base for future health. Here are some ideas. Indulge, in these first 10 of 20 simple gifts.
1. Togetherness—Thanksgiving airlines and my super quiet neighborhood point to the fact that we’re already indulging in gathering again. It’s a good thing to add to the holiday list, (provided you’re protected and at low risk). Scientifically, love expresses itself in person via eye contact, hugs, those mirror neurons, and the like. For fascinating info on this physiology, check out the book, Love 2.0, by researcher & University of Pennsylvania professor Barbara Frederickson.
2. Light, metaphorical—December’s holidays are based in hope. Twinkling lights literally symbolize this. Humans thrive in a state of hope. Researchers, including University of Oklahoma's Chan Hellman of the University of Oklahoma, have revealed as much. If you allow yourself to hope, what do you see?
3. Light, more literally—Baby, it’s dark outside! We know it’s coming, the shortest day of the year (the Winter Solstice on 12/21), but we don’t always anticipate the potential negative health effects of dimmer, truncated days. My tried-and-true strategy involves simply sitting for 30 minutes each morning before a super bright light specifically designed to address seasonal affective disorder. For more info, see what the Mayo Clinic says about SAD.
4. An annual checkup—We can’t really give ourselves the gift of wellness if we don’t know what’s actually happening with our current health. While it’s tempting to skip that yearly physical, especially if you’re feeling pretty good, don’t. In the best case, you’ll confirm how well you’re feeling. In the other best case, you’ll find out what to address health-wise this coming year.
5. A tech break—They’re everywhere! Screens, screens, screens. Lots of time spent staring at them can bring negative consequences. According to Harvard Medical School, “digital devices can interfere with everything from sleep to creativity.” Personally, sitting before screens for long periods also leaves me feeling dulled, achy, and ironically disconnected. Why not grab a physical book, write an actual holiday card, focus on some knitting, or call rather than text?
6. A magical winter walk—How often do we enjoy the combo of Christmas lights AND crispy, cold, possibly even white weather? Okay, obviously, for one month a year. Getting outside to take in the festive scene can truly boost the spirit. Some big light displays, like the Asbury Woods Winter Wonderland near Erie, PA, even let you immerse yourself on foot.
7. Massage—Start dropping hints now for a few massage sessions in 2022! Or at least, treat yourself at home by indulging in some tools, such as a foam roller, massage balls, a massage hook, or one of those lovely massaging back rests. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of massage can include: reducing stress and increasing relaxation; reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension; improving circulation, energy and alertness; lowering heart rate and blood pressure; and improving immune function. Wow, just wow.
8. December sweat—Yes, it is so incredibly tempting to skip workouts this time of year, promising ourselves we’ll reboot in January. Fight the urge to stay seated. One, you’ll physically imbue yourself with the gift of health. Two, if you can keep some momentum now, you’ll ride it right into January when a lot of other people will be saying, hmmmm, maybe I’ll wait til February.
9. Some sweetness—Enjoy some actual treats. But ACTUALLY enjoy them. Pick what you truly love. Savor instead of mindlessly plunging a hand into the bag of kisses during a two hour movie. Deny yourself now, and you may find yourself “boomeranging” into a bevy of cravings come January. So enjoy, discriminatingly.
10. Acceptance—Fill in this blank: I'd love to accept_____. Yourself? Your family? Your current circumstances? So easily said, so maddeningly tough to enact. Yet this season, one of giving, provides an excellent backdrop, which can help us to soften up a little. It's proven that from healthier relationships to inner peace to psychological strength, acceptance is powerful. Practicing even just a bit may be one of the best gifts you give yourself this month.
Join me again in two weeks for 10 more simple gifts that you deserve this season. In the meantime, I wish you peace, health & a lovely December.