The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is steeped in unrealistic expectations. We are bombarded in the media with images of lavish gift-giving that can induce feelings of financial inferiority. We hear people talking about warm and loving family gatherings that can make the pain of our own dysfunctional relationships even more acutely painful.
And when you add all the cooking, shopping, and entertaining associated with the holidays to the already hectic schedules we lead, it can leave us with feelings of failure at our inability to get everything done.
So if you are not experiencing the joy of the holiday season, at least take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Better yet, with a little know-how, you can avoid the pitfalls that ruin our holidays and experience them in the way God intended - with joy, peace and thanksgiving.
- Make a budget for gifts, travel, food, and donations. This will prevent the stress of out-of-control spending.
- Schedule tasks like holiday baking and shopping so you don't have to worry about when you will do it.
- Volunteer at a church, hospital, nursing home, anywhere that allows you to help someone else. This is a sure-fire way to lift your mood.
- Arrange well in advance time to get together with other people so you won't be caught alone. Isolation can lead to depression. If you can't be around your loved ones, try the next best thing, such as sharing pictures, emails, social networking or videos.
- Exercise. The longer and harder you work out, the more endorphins your body releases. So even though a slow short walk is light years ahead of sitting on the couch watching television, challenge yourself to kick it up a notch. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that have euphoric and pain relieving properties similar to morphine!
- Eat healthy food. The more you over-indulge the worse you will feel about yourself. Before any gathering that will involve lots of fattening food, try drinking lots of water and eating veggies, like a salad, or at the very least a healthy meal, so you'll be too full to pig-out at the party.
- Get your eight hours. Lack of sleep makes us eat more, but also leads to depressed mood.
- I saved the best for last: PRAY. Spend time with the Lord. By the power of the Holy Spirit you can have the self-control and wisdom to focus on the true meaning of the holidays: giving thanks, celebrating the birth of our Savior, and the promise of a new year.
Through prayer, Jesus fills us with the peace and love we crave and the strength to share it with others.
So above all, slow down, and take time to rest in the Lord this holiday season.