The holidays are often the busiest time of the year … and busy is good, right? It probably depends who you ask and what kind of mood they are in, but we’ll talk about being “busy” later, for now let’s appreciate what’s right in front of us.
The holidays are here and in full swing! Between driving around on icy roads, shopping, visiting with friends, attending events and making new year’s resolutions we’ve got our plates full!
When I think about the holidays the obvious things come to mind; Christmas trees, lights, music, family, and of course presents. As a kid, the presents were always the highlight, but as I’ve gotten older, there has been less appreciation of material things like presents and far more appreciation of the precious time we have with our loved ones. For every year that goes by, we can’t help but value the people we have in our lives, and can only hope that they value us in the same way. Enjoy these times, people! Live in the moment and appreciate it. :)
To me and to many people I know, the holidays are about giving. Giving time, giving attention, giving care, giving gifts, and sometimes giving up your best interests up for others. To most, it feels very rewarding to help and give to others while putting their own personal interests aside. Find just the right gift? Miss anyone on the Christmas card list? Visit and call everyone you care about? Make time for everyone? Catch up on rest and focus on your own needs in the new year?
Sound familiar? Tis the season…
Unfortunately, for some people... The holidays aren’t as warm and happy as they are for others. No matter how hard we try and be cheerful and giving, this can be difficult. There are people that feel they have nothing to give. I’m not talking about having money for gifts or time to visit people, either. I’m talking about those who feel that they can’t offer any value to others because of an internal conflict that they may be having, or potentially something more serious that’s underlying. A lot of people make a default assumption that other people’s (or even their own) stress in the holiday season is related to money… Or not enough money. While that certainly may play a factor in holiday stress, I believe that that’s too easy of an answer to why people feel stronger emotions like anxiety and stress this time of year than in the other months. There are many happy and healthy people out there that don’t have a lot of money to spare, and they’re enjoying the season without worry.
I am no expert by any means, but I do know that the holidays can be the most stressful time of the year. To some people, the holidays don’t incite warm and happy images like I mentioned above, but can bring on a more darker emotional tone. Instead of trees, friends, family, presents and love, they see loneliness, inadequacy, and very much outside of the norm. Naturally, when someone feels like they aren’t part of the group, they shut down. They isolate. It’s herd instinct for the “sick” animal to alienate themselves from the herd as to not infect the rest of the species. Unfortunately, as humans, we do the same thing … after all, we are animals. However, as humans we are empathetic and can recognize these people. We can help them.
It’s the season of giving. We can’t afford to give money or gifts to every struggling person; that’s just unattainable. Also, money and gifts only offer short-term appeasement. In fact, they really only mask the real underlying problems. So… What can we offer? What can we give?
We can listen.
Talk to your loved ones, lend them your ear and let them know they aren’t alone. If someone you know is having a tough time, be there for them. Don’t let them isolate themselves from the herd. Let them know that they are welcome and certainly aren’t alone.
The same goes for you too! If you feel the stress of the season weighing on you… Talk to someone. Don’t worry... You’re not going to infect the herd. You may be surprised how good you feel after. Remember, this is the season of giving. There is such thing as giving to yourself. Give yourself the chance to maybe change how you feel, or try and improve your outlook. Talk to someone. No matter how strongly you may have felt it lately or in the past, you are not alone. If you don’t want to talk to anyone you know (it can be hard, I know) you can speak anonymously to very qualified people that are ready to listen.
If, by chance, talking about your feelings doesn’t alleviate your concerns, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor. There may be more to it than stress or anxiety. Doctors are there to listen as well. They may help you make a simple change that can make all of the difference for you.
About a year and a half ago, a good friend of our’s taught me something that really stuck with me. Anyone that I am close to knows that I’m trying to stick by it and teach it to others as well. It’s an acronym called NEST. Sorry in advance if my interpretation is slightly (or way off) the intended definition, Cathy, but in a nutshell… It’s the four keys to mental health. (Cathy would know; she has spent her entire career in the mental health field and is as qualified as anyone out there.)
The first three are pretty obvious. You eat, sleep and exercise well and your body (and mind) will reward you.
The last one is talk. Sometimes just talking about how you feel can be the most rewarding and alleviating experiences you’ll have when you are going through something difficult. I’ve tried it out. It works.
I encourage you to focus on all four, and at different times in your life some will be more important than others but they all will be rewarding in spades if you can get the most out of all of them.
Mental health has really only started to gain awareness of late (in the big scheme of medical history and advances) and is slowly no longer becoming a stigma or taboo topic. Mental health is recognized in our society as a legit medical concern, as it should be. It took us a long time as a species to figure out that nutrition and exercise greatly affect our health. In the last 100 years or so, we have made so many gains in industry that the majority of the western world really doesn’t work that hard anymore. Couple that with the advances in the food production industry that introduced all of those scary things like trans fats, saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup… We have gotten lazy and we have gotten unhealthy. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s true.
Unfortunately, we, as a species, have learned the hard way that we cannot be sedentary and eat poorly or we will have major health problems. Heart disease and many other ailments are fuelled by these attributes but slowly the world has caught on. We’re learning. We’re adapting.
We’re also ever-so-slowly learning that stress is just as equally if not a greater detriment to our overall health as diet and lack of physical activity. It may be the final piece of the puzzle we as humans are looking for in order to advance our species. It’s catching on… In fact, several countries have adopted practices to limit stress for their populations because they realize that it is such a crucial part of human health that the quality of life increases greatly when the citizens aren’t over-worked and have a good work/school - life balance. France, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands are the pioneers of this and the rest of the world is catching on.
Picture a square. The four corner letters that connect that square are N.E.S.T. Your mental health is in the middle. Once one of the letters fade, you open a hole for unwanted problems in your life. It could be illness, stress, or worse. Try to keep you N.E.S.T intact, focus on that. No one can predict the future, but we can all do our best to control how we live in it.
First off, thanks for reading this in its entirety. It’s a long read and as I said earlier … we’re all very busy this time of year and it means alot to me that you would take the time!
Secondly, I challenge you to take some time for yourself this holiday season and just relax. Give yourself a break and reset. Get ready for the new year.
Lastly, I challenge you to spend some time on your NEST in 2018. It’s rewarding. Believe me.