Healthy Holidays & Beyond

For many people, the holidays mean overwhelm and overload. From shopping and family pressures to expectations of joy from self and others to eating too much and staying up too late, the holidays certainly can wear on a person.

Will this year be any different?

Or, will an underlying melancholy Blue JOY Ornamentonce again leave many people just getting through rather than celebrating and enjoying the season?

I’ve been to the place of feigning enjoyment while tension and depression cloud every interaction. I’ve felt sick and constantly tired during the holiday season. And I’ve struggled with the disappointing interactions and failed connections with friends and family alike.

I now live on the other side of simply surviving the holidays. Yet, I remain all too aware of how a lack of diligence will result in a return to a force-fed festivity during my end-of-year celebrations.

Focus Determines Reality

The holidays have aGreen JOY ornament way of reminding us of strained and failed relationships. We must face these while at the same time battle the temptation to self-medicate with food and drink. 

Within this struggle lies the sense that a focus on the glitter and glitz of material connections will fade in the coming weeks. When it does, we’re once again left feeling lonely and disappointed.

Then comes the hope brought by the new year and the attempt to convince yourself this year will be different. At the same time, you know deep down it likely won’t.

Admitting these yearly struggles is the first step in obtaining victory over them. So, let’s acknowledge them and point-blank stare them in the face and declare, “No! Not again this year! This year, I’m going to change my focus.”

An Unexpected Journey

Red JOY Christmas OrnamentLet’s journey toward moving beyond survival and into living true joy that will extend well into the next year. Perhaps it will even butt up with these same confessions  and quite possibly a declaration of victory over them this time next year.

This journey requires addressing physical struggles. It involves setting goals.  The journey also traverses through relationships and takes a look at spiritual health.

The following posts are meant to help make that journey successful:

This year can be different than past years. Change begins with a single step and becomes increasingly secure with each additional step. These small steps add up over time to make a huge difference. Choose to take that first step today.

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33 thoughts on “Healthy Holidays & Beyond

  1. Well shared Kari… However, every reader – whether they admit or not – feels some sense of dysfunction during these weeks that end one year and inaugurate an other. It is a relentless cycle of our lives and we get caught up in gala celebration that requires we buy into the festivities that are depicted idealistically, but in truth are unrealistic. No wonder so many people get depressed during these final six weeks of each year. Images of perfect family feasts, decorated homes for the holidays, gift giving that would wreck any family's credit rating, and images of unsullied snow. With all these images and expectations thrust upon us, it is no wonder that this is also the number one time of the year for suicides. When we stack up our lives against these images, how can we possibly measure up?

    Our only hope is to return to three simple messages from the holiday season: Thanks, Love and Hope. We should be thankful to God for our family and friends in good times and in bad times. God's gift of love to us was found in a message carried by a child named Jesus, not gifts from WalMart, Macys or Amazon. Hope is found in the fact we can leave behind our past and forge another present from the future that God had in store for us. Thanks, love and hope are not commercial commodities that can be purchased or manufactured. They are a product of God's grace alone and when our FOCUS is upon His gifts, our REALITY is a lot less depressing and much more inspiring and encouraging,

    God bless… yes Kari, our FOCUS determines REALITY, but be careful to not let society determine your focus.

    • Interesting that you say everyone feels some sense of dysfunction during this time of year. I don't see an indication of that in so many, but maybe that's because people do such a good job of hiding it. Or, perhaps, it's because up to this point my focus has been dominantly on my own dysfunction. We can't measure up against the ideas put in front of us, nor should we try. Moving our focus to Christ is the only way to keep from being consumed by our comparison dominated culture. Thank you for your additional thoughts. Always good!

  2. I've certainly had some sad Thanksgiving and Christmas times. What comes to mind, as silly as this is, is girl problems back in high school and college. But I'm an old fogey now and that's far behind me., haha.
    Part of me, though, always looked to New Year's as the chance to start again. So even though this time of year may not have been pleasant, I always looked forward to a fresh start and the opportunity to turn whatever it was around. Maybe that's strange?
    My recent post The Cost of Redeeming the Time

    • No, not at all strange, Loren. Normal from my point of view. We'll definitely cover the new year's resolution topic in a few weeks. For me, it's all tied together. It seems like a time to reassess life and relationships, and I want it to be a time of moving forward instead of dwelling on what's behind. P.S. You're not an old fogey, not yet anyway.

  3. I am celebrating this holiday season in a quiet way – as my most recent post notes, November 30th was the five year anniversary of my cancer surgery. That it came so close upon Thanksgiving was great – it reminded me of the Thanksgiving dinner I was able to celebrate at House of Compassion in Rochester before I went in for the operation.

    The rest of the holiday stuff? I'm afraid I'm a bit of an odd duck – I don't care for superstitious nonsense, and much of the hoohaw that surrounds December 31st/January 1st seems to me to be just that – I'm already far too much of an introspective type to want to do too much navel-gazing about how the previous year went and how I might hope the next one will be different, and for all the stuff we say about "Jesus is the reason for the season"? The celebration of Christmas is almost as pagan a thing as you can get, and saying that doesn't endear one to many, yet it is historical fact compounded by mercenary greed into what we have today – and Christians are simply a market segment with specific rules for how to pull on the heart strings.

    The worst of it is? Far too many brothers and sisters will read what I've written there and label it cynical at best and anti-Christian at worst, simply because they do not know history.
    My recent post Cured?

    • Studying history can certainly change our understanding of the present, that I'm certain of, my friend. I read your post and am thankful with you of the "anniversary" you celebrate. Celebrating in a quiet way is also my goal, and I am with you to that end for sure. Thank you for sharing your story about healing!

  4. My Thanksgiving was slightly more hectic and stressful than usual and it's carried over to Dec.
    Thank you for reminding me to focus on God and not the circumstances around me. Christmas isn't about the things "bringing me down", it's about our the birth of our Savior!

    God bless and Merry Christmas.

    • Good job for catching yourself early on rather than getting through Christmas and asking yourself, "What just happened?" Balance happens when we continually work to refocus on that which matters most. If we're not struggling to do so, we've likely given in and aren't achieving any semblance of victory. To me, struggling to balance and to focus means I'm heading in the right direction.

  5. Thankfully, our holiday season kicked off with a simplistic, enjoyable approach. While we had a big feast for Thanksgiving, we made few plans and just enjoyed the time off and together.

    Honestly, I typically love Christmas and despise New Year's. I don't get all of the excitement over a calendar rolling over to another year. I know people crave a fresh start, but a fresh start doesn't just automatically happen when moving from 2014 to 2015. It takes intentional action. I digress…

    So, I guess the biggest letdown for me is typically after the beauty and wonder of Christmas fade into the long, cold winter. That is my struggle – fighting through the winter blues.

    My recent post The Fight for Adventure

    • Good to hear you are starting the season off well, Chris. I also am encouraged by those who do enjoy the holidays. You help others do so in ways I'm sure you don't even realize. Your point about the winter blues is well taken, and I think I will address that topic after the new years. Any additional thoughts/insight you have there would be definitely welcome.

  6. I have been trying to draw closer to God over the past year. I know that this will bring about spiritual warfare and I am battling that with a focus on attitude. I am focusing on gratitude and reminding myself that everything comes from God. I count my blessings, and I journal them. I am using a new devotional to me, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and through it I feel God speaking. When I feel overwhelmed I simply stop and say, "Jesus help me". I have also mindful of my thoughts, about myself, about others, about life in general, and when they stray to the negative or complaining, as soon as I realize it I ask God to take control of my mind and captive my thoughts to honor Him. It is not easy, but the rewards are work the struggle, for I am spending more time in peace than before. I am reminding myself that God is in charge of the outcome and does not need my direction to do so. As for the physical, that is more of a challenge, as eating right and getting exercise is more difficult than it once was, so I have to be on my toes about it and ask God to motivate me and show me ways to do what I need to do. Thanks as always Kari for sharing your struggle to encourage and help us.

    • Good to hear from you, Mary. I've read The Jesus Calling, and it is a great book for encouragement and hearing the voice of God. I also find that I come back to it often as I prepare lessons and teachings for church. It's a great reference, and a unique one too. I just figure that if I'm struggling with something, I haven't given in to it. That holds true physically, mentally and spiritually. What I mean is that if I continue to reach for what I know God desires for me, I continue to fight against the flesh and Satan's schemes. As long as I struggle in that direction, I'm being moved toward perfection. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  7. Kari,
    The holidays and the end of one year and beginning of another are a two edged sword. People find both despair and hope as you say during this time. I do think it goes back to relationships; our relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. It is a time we look at those and that drives some tough feelings sometimes but hopefully some great ones too. It is those relationships that make our time worthwhile not what season it is. We have to be careful to not let a season drive how we feel and react.
    We need to relish our journey at all times and relish the relationships we have and do things that build them. Joy is found in that. Even when we do things for ourselves to make us better it helps.
    We do need to push back at times and not let the holidays drive us to live out of sorts.

    • For sure, Mark, relationships are the center of it all. It starts with our relationship with God and flows from there into our other relationships. Preferring others. Doing all in love. For whatever reason, the holidays sort of amplify that which exists (or doesn't exist) the rest of the year. As you say, we need to "push back," and for me this means to "struggle through." And I don't mean struggle in a bad sense. For me, to struggle means I haven't given into the draw of my flesh and emotions; it means I continue pushing forward regardless of circumstances. So, to struggle or "push back" is to make a choice toward moving away from self and toward God. I hope that makes sense.

  8. I have had many difficult Christmases because of having to deal with difficult people. In fact, I was very ill after Christmas two years in a row because of the stress. I'm so thankful that this year I have managed to avoid one difficult interaction and prayed over another and received so much grace! I'm not afraid of this Christmas because I know the Lord will sustain me. Hope we all have a blessed Christmas filled with His joy.
    My recent post 5 Days of Christmas Fun

  9. I can't say I've struggled with depression around the holidays, but I have certainly felt the pressure of lots of activity, doing, and going. I like how you bring it back to facing up to these things as well. That's key, I believe. Pretending it's not that bad or you think it'll get better on its own is a recipe for disaster. Look forward to the further discussions. Thanks Kari.
    My recent post Control, Objectivity, and Healing

    • I spent way too many years deferring the blame… not a happy place. I see it far too often these days in others (I am the mother of two teenage boys, after all), and it seems to be epidemic. Never gets better by ignoring it and pretending it doesn't exist. I know that for certain. Thanks, Jason.

  10. Kari, bless you girl for kicking the door open on this issue. Having the joy of Christmas kicked, (literally) out of me as a child I went into adulthood trying to find that joy in good times, friends, my husband family, gift giving, my own ornamental tree and the whole picture of what should make a happy person. Having children after 12 years of marriage did add a lot to Christmas but still the hole was there and not even my sweet children could fill it up. Oh the blessedness of becoming a child of God…He gave me reason to enjoy Christmas. I must have drove my family crazy after salvation because I was ready to give up the tree, presents, give all to the poor and forfeit tradition. I do Christmas for others and is that is what Jesus is all about, He laid down His life for others. Through the years, especially living in a third world country our Christmas has been less and less about presents and more about enjoying family. Often I have wished I could be transported back to that cave stable with the smell of manure instead of a scented candle, the sound of cows, sheep, instead of the sound of Selah Christmas CD. To sit in the hay and look at baby Jesus, now that would be an experience. Yet God's Word says we who have heard this story and believed are blessed, what faith He has given us to not see with physical eyes but with spiritual eyes that beholds the hope that lives within these frail vessels. So since salvation I have been able to quiet myself often as I do the traditional Christmas thing and thank Him for this gift of faith. It is these thoughts that drive the depression away that has come many times from not having family around or money to buy the Christmas I would like to give them. Faith walking through Christmas and Easter doesn't mean to pull away from all the traditional fun but walking through it with a thankful heart just waiting for God to open a door to tell someone about Him. He is the reason I can have a thankful heart, He lives in me in the year 2014, this is our year Kari, it's the year of all believers, the year He has given us to spread the good news. I am always impressed at your courage to tackle issues we all struggle with on this faith walk. Those of us who read your blog will walk it with you, one blog post at a time. Looking forward to the journey.
    My recent post Mix Matched

    • Thank you once again for the encouraging comment, Betty. While all you said was inspiring, this quote especially spoke to me: \” Faith walking through Christmas and Easter doesn\’t mean to pull away from all the traditional fun but walking through it with a thankful heart just waiting for God to open a door to tell someone about Him.\” Great way to look at how approach any holiday really. Always appreciate what you have to say.

  11. Pingback: Physically Healthy During the Holidays & Beyond |

  12. Christmas (and any holiday) provides the opportunity to spend quality time with those we love. The key is to not be distracted with all of the other things of life and what the specific holiday brings to spend time with them. Thanksgiving was a relaxing and enjoyable day with my wife and son, we plan on making Christmas a similar experience.

  13. That's what its all about. All of my family and wife's family was out of town during Thanksgiving which allowed us to relax together and not worry about cooking or entertaining. It allowed us to spend several days together. Great times!

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