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Winter Holidays – One Down, Four To Go

OKAY! So, we have passed one holiday season milestone. Did you survive it with your program and food plan intact? Think about this for a minute: what worked? What helped you? What made you struggle??What do you need to do for next time? Maybe write that in a journal near that date. If you struggled, what would have helped? If you were fine, write down what helped.

Now it is 23 days till Christmas, Kwanzaa begins in 24 days (Dec 26 to January 1), Hanukkah is celebrated Dec 22 to Dec 30, and New Year’s Eve is December 31.

Most people know about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve, but fewer people know about Kwanzaa.  Kwanzaa is the holiday celebrated next. Kwanzaa is a celebration of life and community.  Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. Celebrating the richness, Karenga created this festival as a response to the commercialism of Christmas. The word means the first fruits of the harvest and the traditional greeting is “May peace, love, and unity bring a happy Kwanzaa to you”.

But wait, I forgot one:  the Winter Solstice is right in the middle, Dec 21. Now I hear you – no one celebrates the solstice – why is she harping on this?

It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). For this hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year. The tilt of the Earth causes the change in seasons, and during the winter solstice, the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is farthest away from the sun.  After the winter solstice, the days get longer, and the nights shorter. It’s a seasonal shift that nearly everyone notices. If you want to tell me that these changes have no effect on us, please look at the changes in daylight; and look at the changes in the tides of the ocean.

The farther we are away from the sun, the more we are affected by it. Believe it or not, the winter solstice may affect your brain’s serotonin levels (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that your body produces). So, when the days start getting significantly shorter, and there’s a limited amount of sunshine, your serotonin levels can drop, changing a lot of things in your life– your mood, your sleep cycle and even your hormonal cycles.  In severe cases, this is called Seasonal Adjustment Disorder.

Though the research isn’t definitive, Medical Daily reports that the number of migraine cases seems to notably increase during the winter months, starting on Dec. 21. The swift change in temperature can lead to changes in the body that result in tension headaches (i.e. – the ones where it feels like there’s a really tight band wrapped around your head).

Adding self-care practices into your routine — such as deep breathing, meditation, leisurely walks, and yoga — can help boost your serotonin levels, and as a result, your mood and overall well-being.  There are also special lamps that may help.

Looking at how to handle the next three weeks, may I offer a suggestion?

Double your self-care. To my mind, self-care has five parts:

Rest and sleep – take time to relax and do the things you enjoy.  Pick up that good book you have been wanting to read, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night!

Exercise – get out and enjoy what little sunshine there is, and try some good stretching or yoga indoors.

This is a spiritual time of the year – plan the time you need for your religious observances.

And make time to get the proper food. Buy it, cook it, enjoy it. Watch your portion sizes and NOOO skipping snacks that are on your food plan!

Speak kindly to yourself. Tell the abusive voice in your brain that she can go on vacation till the holidays are over!

Next week we will talk about Hanukah.

Please extend your holiday season to cover the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Now is the time to celebrate and to make contact with old friends and begin new friendships. It is also a time to look at where our lives are headed and whether that is what we really want. Remember, you can create the good and the loving, and draw the blessings you really want into your lives.

Holiday Blessings to you,

Theresa

PS Marty Lerner will be at my office December 21 for Third Saturday Support Group! Mark it on your calendar and do not miss this: this is gonna be fun!

PPS Our classes will start again on Zoom in mid-January! Plan to join us. If you have requests, please call the office!

PPPS Be welcome to comment here! I want to know what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling!

PPPS If you are still struggling, you could purchase my Holiday Survival Guide which might help.  Here is the link:

Holiday Survival Guide

2 Responses to Winter Holidays – One Down, Four To Go

  1. Cari Heumann December 5, 2019 at 1:14 pm #

    Theresa, these blogs are excellent. Please keep them coming! I appreciate all of the extra support and helpful tips. Even though I truly enjoy the holiday season, this time of year is also quite challenging for me. My body feels it in so many ways, especially with the cold and the decreased sunlight. Increasing my self-care has been so helpful and important, but it’s probably one of the hardest things I do! Your words are a reminder to all of us that it’s crucial to put ourselves and our recovery first if we are going to successfully navigate these winter months!

    • H. Theresa Wright December 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm #

      It’s really important to get 15 minutes of daylight each day, and to keep the blue lights out of the bedroom so you can get eight hours of solid sleep!

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