Navigating the Holidays Alone: advice from Michael Stone
I follow the work of a remarkable yogi, practicing Buddhist, and teacher, Michael Stone. In his blog yesterday, he gave a list of "practices for navigating the holidays alone." The title tugged at me because I struggle with this holiday season every year, trying to determine how to situate my singleness, my childlessness, my culinary deficiencies, my somewhat untethered life with the traditional messages of this season. I so appreciate this seemingly lone voice speaking to those of us who have to work a little harder to find comfort and joy at this time of year.
But the cool thing about this post is that it’s actually a pretty darn good list for anyone wanting to navigate this busy and overwhelming time of year with a little more grace, ease, and contentment.
Here’s his list. I like it a lot. I hope it helps you have a peaceful conclusion to 2016.
Practices for Navigating the Holidays Alone & with Others
- Exercise daily. Regular exercise (even brisk walking) can be more effective in treating depression than most traditional prescription antidepressants (when it comes to a reduction in symptoms and the recurrence rate).
- Loving Relations. Loving relationships are great medicine. Not everyone has the benefit of growing up in a loving environment. One form of love is giving to others. In Buddhism we say there is more joy in giving than in receiving. By intentionally helping others, giving love and attention, we add value and meaning to our lives.
- No phones and computers after sundown. Excessive time spent watching our social media feed or engaging in other forms of media can have a negative effect on our mental health, and this is especially true when it comes to children's programming. Replace screen time with candles, reading, board games, being bored, quiet music, or my son’s favorite pre-bedtime ritual: being chased then wrestled.
- Art. Art can be a mood-stabilizer. It can also help heal the mind. Making art can help some build self-esteem and looking at art gets the imagination working in the best ways. Go to a gallery before the crowds.
- Spirituality, Stillness and Prayer. There is a physical, biological, and genetic side to our lives, personalities, and moods. There are also psychological, emotional, and spiritual sides to our psyches. All of these elements come into play when determining our moods and mental health. Prayer: Praying for help, a sound and healthy mind, and peace can help you successfully relate to your mental health conditions. Maybe make an altar and write your intentions down and place them by a candle or flowers.
- Outdoors. Take breaks from indoor activities and spend time with nature. Even if it’s really cold. Look at trees and snow and the winter sky; this is an effective way to find inner peace, to calm stressed or busy minds, and break free from negative and circular thinking.
- Avoid Isolation. Join an organization that provides you with support. Meeting regularly with others who share similar experiences can help you remain positive and persevere through crises. Or go to a yoga studio, take a workshop, or read in a café.
- Healthy diet. A diet high in sugar can contribute to a weak body and mind. Most breakfast cereals and sodas are loaded with sugar. Improve your diet by consuming healthy fruits and vegetables and reducing your consumption of alcohol. Children need to eat three meals a day. A healthy breakfast is essential. It is especially important that kids that have been diagnosed with mental health issues not skip breakfast or lunch.
- Get organized. If you feel you are procrastinating, go organize something small like a box or drawers. Keep your home neat and clean; get help keeping your home and possessions (e.g. car) organized, if necessary. Get rid of clutter. If it has been there for more than a year, it probably isn't necessary. Get on top of your bills, because finances can also influence your mental health. Professional services from an accountant or a life coach may be of benefit in this area and maybe you can gift a session to yourself.