Quartine. Sickness. Riots. Arguments. Politics. Tantrums. Deadlines. “I wants.”
Kids home most of the year. Routines completely out of whack. Families apart for the holidays.
It seems like Christmas 2019 was a different world. This year peace seems so much farther away than usual. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some of the things my family does year-round to help us remain in peace. May these simple tips help you and yours this Christmas season.
- Deep Breathing: Breathing is essential to life. Deep breathing is essential to self-control and calmness. Along with regulating blood pressure, helping relax muscles, deep breathing decreases the stress hormone cortisol – and who doesn’t want less stress? When things seem out of control, take a deep breath. Recite a favorite verse or proverb and remind yourself, this too will pass. Here is a great article for Harvard Health on how to make deep breathing a routine. this more a routine.
2. Go to bed on time (maybe even a little early): For my followers, you know how much I value sleep and the many benefits it gives. In addition to improving concentration, lowering health issues (like heart and diabetes), sleep is good for emotional response. A study done on this by the Mental Health Foundation found that people that didn’t get enough sleep were four times as likely to suffer from lack of concentration, have relationship problems and 3 times more likely to be depressed, and 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide.
3. Go outside: Something is calming about being out in nature. Seeing the colors, feeling the warmth of the sun, or the comfort of a cool breeze, it a sensation unlike any other. More that, being outside lowers depression and stress, is social, and increases short-term memory and concentration. But, more than that, it gives the brain a minute to take a break and process the day. For those who need it, it is also a safe way to take a break from family members or use it as a way to talk through a situation.
4. Make a list of things you’re thankful for: I am a big proponent of counting blessings. There is something about writing them out that does help shift the mind from a “Woe is me” to a “Blessed is me” attitude. Gratitude helps physical and psychological health and is a benefit to getting good sleep.
5. Read/watch something uplifting: What we put before our eyes affect what we think and feel. Ever walk out of the theatre after watching a suspense movie and take extra precaution walking to the car? This year there has been so much negative news and more movies and shows of intense drama, fear, and, call it what it is, poor behavior. When I talk to friends and family who have been reading and watching these things, their anxiety and fear are much higher than those who have chosen to spend that same time watching and reading positive and uplifting things. Positive words are healthy for one’s body and mind.
6. Listen to uplifting music: Some of us do not have time for books and TV shows. Instead, we spend our days working and running the household and driving kids to this appointment or that. But, during that time, we are still taking in messages. Use this time to listen to what is uplifting. In the car, limit how much news and talk radio you listen to. Set a specific time frame and then move on to uplifting audiobooks or music. At work, create a playlist or station on Spotify or Pandora that is designed to help focus and still brings in good vibes.
7. Write down your worries…then burn them: This is one of my favorite things to do. There is something powerful about writing down the worries. It gives them a concrete feeling. And concrete can be destroyed. Once they are written down, it allows me to see the worry as a challenge with limits. Once there are limits to the fear, that means there is a way to conquer the fear. Once I can see the worry is not abstract, I then pray over them and then – burn them.
8. Spend time with a close friend: When we are busy (or quarantined), it is easy to forget to invest in other relationships. We forget to do things that bring us joy and help us relax. But something is refreshing about spending time with people we love. As a military family, we have lived all over. It is still my favorite thing to screen time family and friends, not near us. The apps Marco Polo and Whatapp are particularly great for this because you can send video, text, and audio no matter the time of day for them to open when it works for them. But, there is something wonderful about sharing a cup of Joe and playing a game or watching a movie together (either in person or on a Zoom). This also helps us carry each other’s burdens and reminds us we are not alone in this.
9. Enjoy a delicious, nutritious meal: I love food! I also believe it has a major impact on our health, behavior, and attitudes. Health food helps my body to operate better. But, more importantly, I feel better. When I feel better physically, I feel better mentally. I also respond to information with more logic and less emotion. When we are pressed for time and/or overwhelmed, it is easy to let good healthy habits fall by the wayside (especially with the holiday goodies at every turn). However, taking a little time to eat nutritiously, will change the impact on your life and the life of those in your household.
10. Be playful and laugh a lot! This year, more than most, it has been easier to forget to laugh and play. But these two things are so important to our relationships, heart, and mental health. Adults need recess too! Play is both fun and motivating. Studies show that people and leaders who laugh are more composed in the face of adversity and have a “bright side” mentality.
This Christmas and holiday season, as we are celebrating with new traditions, different people, and face the coming New Year, let’s remember we can be at peace in the face of adversity. May these tips help you, as they do me and mine, this season and year to come.