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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Your Tips: Taking Care of Ourselves in December

December can be such a difficult month for many people. There's the low level of sunlight and shorter days. The holidays bring up all sorts of complicated feelings, from loss of loved ones, to familial conflicts, to personal inadequacy, to feeling left out. The spending can be stressful and not joyous. More viruses circulate and our defenses could be down. And, the weather could make spending time outdoors unpleasant. So, it's no wonder this can be a difficult time for so many. 

For myself, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, I feel a huge sense of loss this time of year as the anniversary of my mom's passing approaches (she passed away just before Christmas of 1984), the financial stress takes its toll, and I tend to work extra hard making the holidays a special period for my family. I don't think I do a very good job of taking care of myself in December. 

Last year, I became sick on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas celebration had to be postponed 2 weeks as a result. I don't want that to happen again this year for me, and I don't want it to happen to you, either.

So, I thought we could all share 1 or 2 tips for taking care of ourselves in December.

My two tips:

  • don't skip meals. Eat regular, healthy meals, on schedule. I know I feel better if I'm eating healthy in December and limiting the treats that I eat. It's a choice. I can eat healthy and feel well, or I can eat treats and feel not up to parr. I just have to remind myself of the consequences to eating a plateful of fudge or cookies.
  • get to bed on time. It's tempting for me to stay up late, but I also know that my best chances of shortening any virus I may contract is to sleep well every night. Even if this means I'll miss out on one or two late-night, fun experiences during the season. We will no longer go to the late church service on Christmas Eve, as an example. Count me as one of the fuddy-duddies who can only go to the early service.
Your turn. What are 1 or 2 of your best tips for not only surviving December, but truly enjoying it? How do you take care of yourself this time of year?


  1. Lili, have you tried a light box for SAD? I got one a couple of years ago and it makes a difference for me. And I know several people personally who it has helped a lot. It might be well worth the investment.

    I whole-heartedly agree with your two tips. I try to practice those year round with varied results. I would add that I also try make sure that I figure out what's most important during the holiday season and realize if the rest doesn't get done, it's okay. For me, I would like to have some kind of tree and see my family. I like more decorations, big family meals, Christmas parties, special church services, lots of presents, making cookies to give away, and looking at special lights, but if those don't happen it's okay. I would say that I usually bat about 60% of my ideals. When push comes to shove, a regular schedule always wins out.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I tried a light box about a dozen years ago. I imagine technology has improved and maybe there's something out there that would help with SAD for me. Do you have a set time each day you use it?

      I think you're right about prioritizing the different possibilities of the holiday season. It's easy to get caught up in the thinking that we "have to do it all."
      Thanks for your input.

  2. Funny that L&L mentioned dealing with SAD. I was talking with a nurse today who told me that she has her teen daughter take vitamin D in the low-light months of the year and she said she can tell a difference in her daughter's mood. I hadn't heard of that before so I think I'll research it a bit, but it sounds promising.

    In addition to your (and L&L's) suggestions, I would add that I try to maintain an exercise schedule. Nothing earth-shattering with that .... but I find that it recalibrates my brain, helps me deal with stress, and I sleep a lot better when I have exercised. If I can get outside, even better (yup, more vitamin D).

    I take a day every Christmas season for "fun" shopping .... sometimes a couple of days, if I can swing it. By that I don't mean big box stores or the mall, but instead I go to one or two picturesque towns that are near me with beautiful downtowns and fun boutiques. If I find gifts, that's a wonderful thing, but I don't put pressure on myself to fulfill a gift list on those days. It's purely for my enjoyment. I pack myself a lunch and I buy myself a fun coffee drink and browse. I try to do it earlier in the month of December to avoid crowds. It's my version of having myself a merry little Christmas. I think we moms/wives end up having the brunt of Christmas responsibilities fall on us, and it's important to do something to "fill our buckets".

    1. Hi Kris,
      I do take vitamin D daily. I began this about 6 or 7 years ago. I read a study about vitamin D and influenza outcomes and that motivated me to add this to my daily supplements. I'm not sure how much it helps with SAD for me. And I'd be reluctant to stop for a while to see if it made a difference.

      I agree with the exercise. I find even if I walk indoors that I get a pick-me-up. I also find walking to be good thinking time away from a screen, which also helps my mood and is good for my overall health.

      I love your idea to shop in a couple of nice areas. We have a lovely downtown small town nearby. I may do the same in the next few days, not only to pick up a gift or two, but to enjoy the lovely, well-cared for storefronts. And I may just get a hot beverage while there. I have several Starbuck's gift cards that never seem to get used.

      Thanks for your input, Kris.

  3. Another light-box believer here. I struggle with SAD as well. For years, I owned the "Happy Light" but didn't use consistently. This year, I've made it a point to do so, by moving it to the dining room table and turning it on while I eat breakfast, and it seems to be helpful. On days when I walk outdoors, I sometimes skip it.

    My other biggie is simply exercise. I KNOW that I need every bit of endorphin I can get, and exercise helps with that for me. And an outdoor walk helps on multiple counts. We're in our foggy time of year here, so some mornings it is hard to get out there, but once I do, I'm always glad I did. Most mornings are just a gentle walk (2-4 miles), but others, I go for an actual hike or longer walk.


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