From the time that first tinge of orange creeps across a once green leaf, the “holidays” quickly descend upon us. I say “holidays” because that time of year rarely provides the rest and relaxation commonly associated with the word. From pumpkin-hued and flavored everything; to the frenzied preparation of a November feast best consumed in stretchy pants; to the business of gifts and giving; with concerts and travel thrown in, the Christmas season is a lot.
With a cheerful heart and a determination to stay calm, the holiday season can be enjoyable for all, albeit tiring. After all, coming at the tail end of another year filled with ups and downs for many, the smells of cinnamon and pine, bursts of red, green, and gold; carols reflecting on the babe sent to be the Saviour of the world, do represent a higher point in the year’s calendar.
But the season is only fleeting, and it begins winding down almost immediately on December 26. By January 2, most of us (kids included) may be back in work and school as if nothing happened the entire month before. It can be an anticlimactic end to an exciting period of time; and for some it brings a sense of let-down or even loss of purpose. If you really love Christmastime? Forget it. You might find yourself downright distraught that it’s over.
So what happens once you pack up the Christmas decorations, carefully wrapping heirlooms to be reopened in a year’s time? How do you “reenter” normal life in a meaningful way? With winter and its seasonal depression, increases in colds and flu, and cabin fever for those living in blizzard-prone places, it can seem there isn’t much to look forward to. But it doesn’t have to be that way, for now is a great time to set a few things in order.
Reflection is a powerful tool for helping us cultivate gratefulness. Start by making a running list on your phone or iPad of all the ways God has led you in the past year. The act of recalling blessings is often a pick-me-up. The purpose of keeping a running list is to get in the habit of adding to it. With a brand-new span of 12 months ahead of you, there will surely be more trials and deliverance ahead. So make sure to mark those moments and log the hand of God in all of them. Every time you feel down or anxious for what is to come, read the list and see the proof that God is faithful.
If the previous year and the holiday season were nothing but positive for you, that’s wonderful. But if the exact opposite was true, don’t despair. Because in both situations a strong connection to the Lord is important—faithfulness in good times and bad.
Are there areas in your local church that could use your help? What about your local community?
So what is it you want to accomplish in the coming year to make that possible? Do you want to read the Bible through, start a Bible study series, volunteer more in church, listen to more spiritually-themed podcasts, or have a more committed devotion time? There are many spiritual goals to choose from.
I advise starting small and choosing one or two goals that are doable. You can always reevaluate as the year goes on and add what you need. But focus on mastering the few that you do choose now. Really commit to making your spiritual goals happen.
It has been said that when a person is feeling down, there is no better healer than to do something good for someone else.
So how and where can you serve? Are there areas in your local church that could use your help? What about your local community? More Seventh-day Adventists need to be involved in the secular world of their local communities. Find out about volunteering opportunities that appeal to your interests and individual gifts and do something.
This is also an excellent way to let the world learn more about the One in whose name you serve.
Creativity can be a therapeutic balm for many emotional stressors. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of trying something new, such as a couple’s pottery class or an intimidating class at the gym or learning to play an instrument, why not go for it? Immerse that side of your brain in creative pursuits. I can tell you from personal experience, hand-knitting chunky yarn blankets is super-easy, calming, and a skill I picked up from YouTube. Now I have a new creative outlet and something special to share with someone else—once I get my blankets to look less like fishing nets, of course.
It’s so easy to take care of everyone else and forget yourself in the process. It may seem as though you’re being selfless, but in the long run you may be doing more damage than good.
If your health plan allows for reimbursement for massage therapy, try to take advantage of this benefit. If you don’t have something like that, look out for significantly discounted deals on sites like Groupon. A massage can make you feel better—mentally and physically.
You can also indulge in easy and inexpensive home “spalike” treatments. Fill your tub with hot water and add lavender-scented Epsom salts (very good for sore muscles and better sleep), light some candles, play some soothing music (Pandora actually has a spa music channel), and soak away the stresses of the day.
Drink lots of water and make an effort to eat foods that make you feel good—colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber-filled whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Maybe invest in a new cookbook or visit a healthy eating website to try something new.
Exercise shouldn’t be hard to remember since you’ll be bombarded with New Year’s resolution fitness ads pretty much everywhere. The trick to committing to an exercise routine is to find an activity you enjoy and be consistent. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Don’t neglect your annual physical, and be sure to stay on top of anything that bothers you by speaking to your doctor early on.
Last, if you feel down in a way that you can’t seem to shake, talk to a mental health professional as soon as you can. Take care of your mental and emotional health needs just as much as your physical ones.
If the post-Christmas, winter-is-awful letdown is too distressing, plan activities that give you something to look forward to. It could be something as simple as game nights with friends, or day trips to nearby cities or quaint towns, to something a bit more exciting, such as a little winter vacation. Work within your individual budget and decide on something that makes sense for you and your family. The months between the new year and spring often spark a string of travel deals. Look into Airbnb, cheap plane tickets, road trips, or new attractions in your area to explore. Be proactive about planning something so you can look at your calendar with happy anticipation.
One of the best things we can do when in “recovery” from a jam-packed holiday season is to focus on all the good that came with it, while looking forward to the good that is to come.
I used to have a very hard time with Mondays and getting back to the grind. But I recently read a blog post written by someone who said that Monday was her favorite day of the week (what?), because she chose to look at it as a fresh start and a clean slate. Each new week ahead became one filled with new opportunities and blessings to enjoy.
I started to look at things that way, and my Monday blues aren’t so blue anymore. Perhaps we can take that approach to looking at a brand-new year.
The year 2019 has come and gone, and we’ve sent it out with aplomb through the festivities of the season. Now 2020 represents a fresh, new start brimming with new joys and opportunities to discover. As long as we start each new day with Jesus and walk with Him through
whatever is to come, we can be confident that as long as He is by our side, there will always be something to look forward to.
And just think: we’re that much closer to summer!
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor at Adventist Review.