Author’s Note: Any ridiculing of holiday decorations is entirely intentional, but no lawn décor was harmed in the writing of this piece.
Greetings, Arkansas Soul! It’s that time of year again.
The time of year when Amazon packages arrive more frequently than the mail in some locations, when hot cocoa of questionable quality is added to beverage menus, and when peppermint begrudgingly replaces pumpkin spice as the add-in flavor of choice.
The temperatures are dropping signaling that Old Man Winter is right around the corner. In many parts of America this drop in temperature, combined with the newly barren trees and ostentatious displays in retail stores, announces the holiday season—an ambiguous period of time that could range from late October until mid-February, depending on whom you ask.
Many claim it begins in the nebulous period of time “after Christmas decorations are put up.” Everyone knows that this is no longer an accurate marker of the beginning of the holiday season because while many of us wait until after Thanksgiving is over if we put up decorations at all, there are others who throw up Christmas decorations after Labor Day.
Even still, there are folks who never take their decorations down. I actually admired the efficiency of a South Mississippi business that kept its holiday tree up year-round. It was always appropriately decorated of course.
During football season, the tree had black and gold ornaments and a large fleur de lis to support the New Orleans Saints, but by February the tree would be decked out in purple, green, and gold for Mardi Gras. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!
While the holiday season can be a time of great pleasure and joy for many, it can also be equally stress-inducing for others.
With this in mind, I want to offer some pointers for maintaining your mental, physical, and/or emotional equilibrium throughout this holiday season.
This too shall pass
Remember, the holiday season is finite. No matter how chaotic things seem, the holidays will be over in a month, and things will return to their normal chaotic level!
To the extent that it is possible, social distance, wear masks when you have to go out, and get your seasonal flu shot if it is appropriate for your demographic.
Nothing dampens my questionable holiday spirit like battling a cold. Imagine how much worse you’ll feel if you’re trying to fight off the seasonal flu, or worse still, COVID-19.
Donate any excess food or a few dollars of your discretionary income to a local charitable organization. If you don’t have any discretionary income (and many of us do not), try to volunteer at a local charity.
Maybe contactless meal delivery to the elderly is an option. Anything that you can safely do to help others would be greatly appreciated. You’d be amazed at how much better you will feel when you help others.
Prioritize yourself and engage in self-care
Put your “me time” on your calendar. Time for self has to be a priority just like every other “necessity.” This time will look different for everyone depending on your individual circumstances, but be sure to make it happen!
Try a new app like Calm or Liberate Meditation that forces you to be still (the irony of using technology to take a break from technology is not lost on me).
Obviously, I am a fan of alliteration, but you don’t have to make your family day a Friday. Do try to take one day to prioritize seeing, talking to, or being with family.
This isn’t limited to biological family. It can be a friend group or anyone that you share a kinship with. Even introverts need others, especially during this time when forced isolation is the norm.
Love in the Time of Corona
If you’re single, take yourself out for a socially-distanced date night. If you’re a couple, try a date night at home.
If you have kids and have a trusted sitter or family friend who has passed their Corona test with a B- or higher, perhaps hire them for a night out on the town. This might just be a drive-in movie or a driving tour of the city.
Indulge in comfort, not necessarily comfort food
Let’s face it, when it’s cold outside, most of us want hot, hearty meals, which can be calorie-laden and contribute to feelings of lethargy and sluggishness.
Try making your favorite stew, soup, or chili at home. This will allow you to substitute leaner cuts of meat and lower fat ingredients. If you’re the take out queen, king, or non-binary royalty like I tend to be during busy times, try restaurants with salad and veggies options.
Try to lead with the veggies so that you get full on those first. Do the best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make great choices. Just do better tomorrow.
Take things one day at a time
No matter how overwhelming things may be right now, just put one foot in front of the other. Slow down and focus on one task at a time.
Create a daily to-do list to help you execute the things you set out to accomplish on that day. I’m a sucker for graphic organizers so I used this convenient one from the How To Take a Break podcast.
Make exercise/wellness social
With winter weather upon us, and gym closures left and right, more and more people are confined to the house. If you’re fortunate enough to still have an open gym near you and you are able to patronize them, I know they would love the support.
If, however, your family situation and health risk factors won’t allow you to get out, try these at-home options: family yoga night, Zumba night, or some other fitness-themed event. Family walks make great post-meal activities.
If all else fails, you can download an app from one of the many fitness companies that offer online promotions, especially during the pandemic.
As an AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor, I teach online classes that are free in the month of December so feel free to join me for a virtual workout.
*Before undertaking any new exercise regimen, be sure to consult a physician.
Embrace the word NO
Embracing NO can be one of the simplest and most powerful things we can do to protect our wellness during the holiday season and beyond.
This is true for everyone, but Black women, who are often conditioned to be everything for everyone, should take this message to heart. The first couple of times you do it, it will be hard, like trying to pronounce Worcestershire sauce, but I promise you, the more you say it, the easier it is to do it.
If it doesn’t provide you a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction, doesn’t help you secure your bag (that’s young people speak for get your money), or help further you and your family’s goal, tell folks no. If all else fails, you can tell them that I said you can’t do it!