Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lights in the darkness: Resources to help with holiday headaches

While I am not Christian, I enjoy the story of Christmas. When I think of it as a world-wide birthday part, a celebration of a baby and the possibility of miracles, it gives me pause and makes me smile. What I have come to find more and more challenging is the rampant consumerism Christmas has come to represent, at least in the U.S.

Today I’d like to offer you some resources and ideas to escape the consumerism of the season and maybe get closer to its roots; a celebration of miracles, of community, of light in the darkness.
  1. Breathe
    The holiday season can be so very hectic, it feels like we don't even have the time to breath. When we become breathless our bodies generate more stress hormones and we can feel like we're panicking. We become short-tempered and agitated. 
    Take the time to breath. When you're out running around, slow down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Better yet, learn to meditate and take a few minutes each day to care for yourself by taking easy breaths and letting go of the stress that's consuming you. This site has some nice tips and guided meditations.
  2. Give something away
    I know, this time of year you're already thinking a lot about giving gifts. But I mean a different kind of giving. Some recent studies have found that money can, in fact, buy happiness, but not the way the researchers expected. When people spend money on themselves their happiness is far less and far shorter lived than when they use the same amount of money to do something nice for someone else. Not because they have to, the way we have to around the holidays, but simply because they can.
    Make a donation to your favorite charity; better yet, make a donation to the favorite charity of someone you love. Give clothing that doesn't fit to a worthy organization. Buy a homeless person a cup of coffee. You may find you benefit from this simple acts of kindness more than you ever expected.
  3. Create a miracle
    You can have a huge impact on the life of someone you don't know, simply by taking a little time and giving a little money. I have become a supporter of micro-financing programs like which helps impoverished people around the world start their own businesses. It's a chance to give someone in some of the world's most impoverished places dignity and self-determination. And if that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is.
  4. Be a light in the darkness
    These are dark days. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we're leaning away from the sun and are wilting from lack of light. These are dark days. If you take in the news in any form, you can't help but think the world is coming to an end. Here's a tip:
    It's not. The world will survive. The light will return. It may take awhile and it may be painful, but we as a species and our planet are quite resilient. With any luck, we'll learn something, maybe even change for the better. (I know, cynics are laughing at me. I'm laughing at me. But I'd rather hope a little.)
    In the meantime, what can we do? What we have always done. We do the best we can and we strive to be a light in the darkness. Be kind when you can. Maybe be a little kinder than necessary. Say "please" and "thank you." Remember that everyone else is as stressed and harried as you are, and maybe the jerk who cut you off in traffic is rushing home because their kid is sick or their soldier spouse is finally coming home. 
What else do you do to cope with these rushed, crazy days? What brings you solace and comfort? What are your lights in the darkness?

(c)2011 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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