Health and Wellness: Christmas 2020 Edition
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10
I will admit it. I have struggled with the article for this month. There is plenty of information about healthy eating, exercising, social gatherings, managing expenses during the holidays. The problem is that 2020 is not just any year…it is 2020, the year of COVID. We are dealing with a new reality this Christmas. Our eating and exercise habits are probably different—comfort food sounds really good these days and gyms are currently closed. Social gatherings? Probably not going to happen. We are doing most of the shopping online. Christmas worship services will be different. Instead of gathering in the Sanctuary, we will be in front of our computers or in the parking lot. This year we may need to dig a little deeper to find the joy that Advent and Christmas bring. We need to focus on the true meaning of Christmas—the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. Christmas is a season of great joy. It is a time when God shows His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. Even though family celebrations may be different this year, the reason for our celebrations has not and will not change.
A few tips for health and wellness during Advent and Christmas 2020:
Focus on what you can control
There are a lot of things that we aren’t able to control this year. Turn those things over to the Lord. What can you control? You can take care of yourself by being active and eating a healthy diet. Make plans to attend the worship services that Bethel offers—online or in the parking lot. Register for The Sanctuary in Season held during Christmas week.
It is amazing what sleep does for us. Sleep restores and prepares the body. Work to establish a calming wind-down routine before bed—avoid screen usage (phone, laptop, tablet, TV) for at least one hour before bedtime, have a cup of herbal tea and write in a journal immediately before bed, adjust the temperature (cooler is better) and light for optimal sleeping, say your prayers.
Give yourself a break if your wellness habits take a backseat
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you skip your regular exercise for a couple of days or if you eat a few extra cookies. Simply, recognize the misstep and return to healthier habits. The added stress of being upset with yourself can actually lead to weight gain.
Work on becoming resilient
Resiliency is the ability to adapt well in the face of significant sources of stress. It is the ability to tolerate stressors without collapsing and rebuild and improve. Of course, this is easier said than done. Ways to become more resilient: connect with others for support, identify and face your fears, be kind to yourself, reframe sources of stress, meditate and pray, and forgive yourself and others.
Move your body
Keep up any activity that you are currently doing or start slowly on a new activity plan. Walking is simple, cheap, and renewing. Walking in the brisk air is invigorating and brings joy.
Take a look at what you are eating
I love sweets. I am sure I am not alone. Do you know what I have found? I feel better if I don’t eat them. For me, the same is true of sodium. I have tended to eat more prepared food than usual during COVID and prepared (think frozen meals) foods are higher in sodium. This has taken a toll on my blood pressure. Once I cut back on the sodium in my diet and improved my blood pressure, I felt much better. Take time to see if something you are eating may be causing you to not feel your best.
Continue with COVID-19 precautions
Wear a mask, social distance, stay home when sick, wash/sanitize your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings, and follow the recommendations of local, state, and national officials. Take comfort in knowing that a vaccine is on the way!
Make a change
Maybe this is the year that you make a change in some of your traditions. I usually put up a big tree with a lot of ornaments. I have decided that this year I am going to just have a small tree without so many ornaments. Maybe this year you will choose to do a vegetarian meal instead of the usual meatballs, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Instead of having a big gathering, snuggle in and watch Christmas movies by yourself or with your immediate family. (By the way, it has been shown that watching Christmas movies improve your mood!) If you are not able to participate in that Christmas 5K that you usually do with hundreds of other people, do your own 5K…and be sure to wear your Santa hat. Give—your time, your money, your talents, your wisdom to individuals or groups who need it.
Scientifically speaking, prayer might help reduce stress, loneliness, and fear. But we know that it is not about science. Prayer is a conversation with the Lord. It is a comfort to know that He is there for us any time. Who else can we unload our burdens upon?
I wish you the best during this Advent season. I am hopeful that by this time next year that COVID-19 is just a memory. I am looking forward to celebrating next year with friends and family, eating my traditional Christmas Eve meal, putting up my big tree with all of the ornaments, and going to worship services with my Bethel family. Until then, I will be thankful for all that I have.
Merry Christmas! Be well.