Friday, February 23, 2018

Redefine December

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Does anyone really experience December? Suppose this month, with all its own wonder, appeared at the end of winter instead of the start. What would we capture …

These days there is a lot of talk about living in the moment, so much so it becomes just another part of the “doing” we try to escape through the mindfulness of just “being.” Sounds esoteric, yet it is graspable by all.

Exemplified best in social media, friends and strangers alike share wisdom often through a plethora of quotes. Meant to motivate, they advise on everything from how to enjoy a bite of food to when to cut losses. A recent plaque read, “What matters most in life are quotes and stuff that tell you what life is really about.” The satire is refreshingly funny. In other words: Stop talking mindfulness/gratefulness/happiness. Start living it. (Note: No mention of doing.)

Take a day off from expenses of the season.
Take a day off from expenses of the season.

As we approach the month’s halfway mark, reassess. Have you noticed anything beyond the rush? If you were to wrap up the gift of December itself, would it be filled with bills, overworked hours, and exhausting holiday preparations? It is not too late to take back this final month of 2013. Notice and appreciate it. Then, you can truly radiate the spirit of the season.

Life’s demands send us flying through our days. We skim the pages of our lives, taking in the stories, getting the gist, but not fully living. December is one of the biggest ironies. It houses festive holidays, and the promise of fresh beginnings with a new year knocking on its door. Its reputation is to be the jolly season, when warmth and generosity are shared in abundance with smiles brightened by twinkling colored lights. Yet, beneath the surface brews stress, burnt cookies, and possibly a maxed-out credit card.

Be Real

Don’t succumb to summer syndrome where extra fun and activities are jammed into a short span of time. The holidays are only a few short weeks. Community events, social gatherings, and visiting fill the calendar. We don’t think of these things as stressful. However, keeping a fast-paced lifestyle with minimal downtime–and during cold/flu season–can induce stress and make one susceptible to sickness.

Prioritize to enjoy the true meaning of the season, which includes appreciating loved ones and refraining from strangling them with a wad of tangled lights. Realize the outside may not reflect reality. A healthy family shoveling snow together could have emerged from tensions indoors over something as simple as missing mittens.

Bring it down. Lower stress by being realistic. You don’t need to spend hours on Pinterest to create the perfect holidays. You have a style all your own. Live it, even if it includes (horrors!) plain paper plates.

Bring out the good (paper) dinnerware. Visit more.Clean up less. More precious than fine china.
Bring out the good (paper) dinnerware. Visit more. Clean up less. That’s more precious than fine china.

Forget the extra strand of lights and go for a walk instead. Enjoy nature — and other people’s decorations. In a month, the walk will have mattered more. Skip the family portrait and take candid shots at home. Let the kids take pictures from their perspective. On a snowy day in January, when schedules slow down, use the photos to create an album.

Capitalize on what matters to you, personally. Be brave. It may not agree with the media’s vision, the Butterball commercial’s Norman Rockwell portrayal, or Facebook posts. You are real. Keep expectations realistic.

Be Considerate

Of yourself! Gift yourself the friendship you extend to others. Treat yourself as you would a best buddy. Make time for your favorites and focus on your health. In your travels, autopilot your car to the Center for your fitness routine.

Racing through Macy’s with the latest coupon coup; waiting in check-out lines, arms laden packages; perspiring not by the dreamy fire but at the class party where kids’ excitement heats up the temp, along with your holiday turtleneck.  Although cardiovascular and aerobic in their physical nature, these activities should not replace a healthy workout. Rather, a healthy workout can reduce the stress these activities put on your body and mind.

Increased heart rate and breaking into a sweat does not always mean you are achieving the benefits of exercise. The above scenarios actually stress your body, even if they burn a calorie or two. The stress hormone cortisol is released, producing a compromised immune system and a bleak mental outlook. Again, what happened to the “happiest season of all”?

Break a healthy sweat! You deserve it.
Break a healthy sweat! You deserve it.

Fuel up with exercise-induced energy and muscle power. Ask a personal trainer for a holiday training workout. Include endurance (for shopping), circuits (for market sprints), strengthening (for carrying shopping bags), and mindfulness (for de-stressing). Power through your days with energy, and calves of steel.

When your world relies on you to make the season bright, take action. Research indicates moderate exercise on most days of the week results in half the sick time. Additionally, when exercisers do catch the inevitable virus, they frequently suffer milder symptoms with a quicker recovery.

Consider hiring a personal trainer to bring you into the New Year. With this commitment on your calendar, you will be less likely to skip a workout. During a time crunch, short but smart workouts can be just as effective as longer ones. Keep the momentum going to launch yourself into 2014 without having to overcome a fitness setback. This season provides enough setbacks in the form of pies and Pinot. Perhaps compensate for those indulgences by adding extra intense intervals to your workouts.

Be Aware

December days will pass whether or not we note them as more than scheduled hours. Take time and be aware of:

  • sunrays on a stray mild afternoon; they are limited now.
  • a child’s laughter; it’s a little louder with gifts pending.
  • a soft blanket; time to dig out the flannels.
  • bare trees; notice what lays beyond them without the cover of leaves.
  • the comfort of a warm cup; caffeine never tastes this good in soda.

December is here, but not for long. Discover what makes it unique, holidays aside.

Be Sincere

It's December. Drink it in.
It’s December. Drink it in.

A life lived well radiates all year long. Special times provide opportunities for us to share talents and express our love more freely. However, do not let it stop there. Gift yourself and the world around you sentiments of peace and goodwill year round. Spend less time fretting over price tags. The highest costs may deliver the lowest value. Instead be sincere in your efforts to make others happy, 365 days a year. The recipients will cherish this feeling long after wrapping paper is recycled.

It may be December, but you still have enough, do enough, and you are enough.


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