Silent Nights

A lot of people in the world struggle with depression. The winter season especially affects people who deal with mental illness (and even those who typically don’t). It gets dark earlier and is bone-chillingly cold out there. With less vitamin D intake, some people struggle to keep their moods stable. This would contribute to seasonal depression. Don’t forget that the holidays aren’t a happy time for everyone. For some, the holidays are a remembrance of loss. There are people who don’t have families to celebrate with or homes to celebrate in. Some people have lost love ones this past year and will be experiencing a slew of firsts without their beloved family member or friend.

December has always been a difficult month for me. I always find myself stuck in sorrow and negative self-talk during the twelfth month. It’s almost like clockwork. I have family to spend the holidays with. I have a home to spend the holidays in. But yet, I can’t get out of the December funk.

Here are some things you can do to help your mental health this month (and every month):

  • Start your grateful journal: List 5 things that you are grateful for every day.
  • Exercise: Go for a walk around the block, jog on your treadmill, go to the gym, do some push-ups and sit-ups, jumping jacks, jump roping…whatever you do, get that heart rate elevated and those endorphins flowing. They are the natural mood boosters!
  • Eat healthy meals: There is nothing worse than feeling bloated and gross after binge-eating all of the holiday sweets you could get your hands on.¬† Sure, those things are fine in moderation, but don’t forget to eat your fruits and vegetables too! (Oh, and Vitamin D fortified foods such as almond milk and tofu)
  • Positive Self-Talk: Spend a minute each morning when you are getting ready for your day to look in the mirror and say a positive affirmation to your reflection.
  • Meditation: Spend at least 5 minutes per day meditating or enjoying silence without activity. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the quiet. Listen to your body and feel it’s energy.
  • Communication: If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t keep it bottled up. This is something that I struggle with at times. I sometimes feel scared that if I tell someone how I feel, they will not understand or they won’t be able to handle what I’m saying. Be vulnerable and let out your thoughts and feelings to someone you trust. It’s okay to cry and speak your mind; you will feel so much better afterwards.
  • Give a loved one a hug: long hugs release hormones that lower the levels of cortisol in the body and, in turn, decrease your stress. The same thing goes for cuddling! So hug your loved ones!
  • Do something you enjoy: Spend time every day doing something that you love. Whether that’s reading a book, playing a video game, crocheting, baking,…spend time making yourself happy and relaxing.

 

I know that this is a tough time for a lot of people, but we can do this. We can make it through this and you will be so glad that you were strong. We are in this together.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Holiday To-Do List

Deck the halls, sing the songs, and enjoy the merry Christmas season. This year, I have decided to make a “bucket list” of things that I want to do and experience over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas. What is on your “must do” list for the holiday season? Comment with your favorite things to do/experience in December.

  1. Tour of Lights: Growing up, we always took a trip to a local cul-de-sac that was impeccably decorated. Every year they would have hundred of lights, inflatable decorations, and Santa with Christmas music blasting. I want to visit those lights again this year and build new memories with my husband at a place that was memorable in my childhood.
  2. Dec(orate) the Halls: Some of our decorations are out, but we have yet to put up our tree. We will probably only have the fake tree up this year, but I will make sure our home is decorated for the holidays.
  3. Baking: I want to try making vegan cookies for the first time this holiday season! I am thinking an oatmeal and dried cranberry cookie, but who knows what I will find…Baking is definitely not my forte, but who knows, I may be able to pull it off.
  4. Dish to Pass: I think I have finally hit the age where I should be bringing a dish to family gatherings. Being vegan and having an extremely non-vegan family, we will need to bring all of our own food. But this year I am planning to bring a dish for everyone to enjoy at each of the parties we go to.
  5. Holiday Party: I think we will be hosting a holiday party with my husband’s school clinical group. I don’t know any of them, but I am going to make the best of it. I’ve been in the mood to host gatherings, so I will take any excuse to plan a party.
  6. Time to Relax: This year I want to finish all holiday shopping at least one week before Christmas. I always find myself braving the crowds on Christmas Eve, but this year I want to spend the days leading up to Christmas relaxing and enjoying family time.
  7. Rejuvenation: I vow to do one thing per day to positively affect my mental health. Whether it’s a bubble bath, journaling, coloring, meditation, or anything else I feel like, I am planning to take care of myself in this hectic time of the year.
  8. Singing Carols: I want to listen to Christmas music without guilt. In the car, at home, and at work…it’s only for a few weeks!
  9. Cinema: I want to watch at least two new Christmas movies this year. Yes, I am talking about those cheesy lovey dovey movies. I usually hate the romantic movies, but there is something about Christmas season that makes them charming.
  10. Eat Balanced: I hope to not pig-out on all of the junk at holiday parties. Sure, I am going to enjoy some treats, but I want to end my year in balance.

 

What are your ideas and plans for the holiday season?

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Small Business Holiday Shopping

In this day and age we have everything available to us with just a couple clicks. Any big league store is available online, but now small business have an online presence too. It’s important to buy local now more than ever. Local businesses help to boost local economy. With stores shutting down left and right, our money is being shipped to faraway locations via the inter-web. When we shop with local businesses, we are encouraging the salaries of neighboring artists/entrepreneurs who will shop locally and keep the wealth in our communities.

When you shop with small businesses you aren’t paying for a CEO’s mansion in the hills, but a little girl’s dance classes, a family’s groceries, a student’s schooling, and so much more. When a company only has one or two employees, the money is going toward building their business and supporting their families. By working with small business owners, you will get to know the people that are benefiting from your purchases. It’s a much more personal and meaningful interaction/investment.

With the holiday season in full-swing, there are countless opportunities to support local businesses. Handmade gifts are the best kind and even if you aren’t a super crafty person, you can get your hand on some awesome (and reasonable priced) homemade goodies. I know that I listed gift ideas on a previous post, but here are some specific to small businesses.

  • Craft fairs: It’s that time of the year where local churches and schools host their annual craft fairs. These are great events for finding amazing handmade gifts. Craft fairs are one of my guilty pleasures. Fleece blankets with crocheted edges, knitted scarves/hats, and jewelry are staples at any craft fair.
  • Facebook pages: This is a great place to find people with hidden talents from all over the world. It is especially easy to find local people who have side hustles that result in beautiful works of art. For example, I have been following a friend-of-a-friend’s page for a few years that’s called “Chalk it Up with Shianne”. She creates gorgeous chalkboard signs for any occasion. Birthdays, retirements, births, pregnancies, holidays, weddings, and so many more events have been decorated by her artwork. I eventually want to get a sign made for our home from her site. Check out her page to see what I mean! Chalk it Up with Shianne
  • Etsy: I’m sure you have heard of it before. So many gifts that my husband and I have bought for each other have been from Etsy shops and we have loved each and every one of them. Several of the people that I know even host their own shops on the site. A woman I went to high school with has an art page on Etsy filled with magnets, stickers, ornaments and other projects that she has created herself. It amazes me what creative minds can come up with. I even bought some handmade custom ornaments from her for Christmas presents. Not only are the items beautiful, but I know who my money is going to. Do you? Take a look at her site to see what I mean! Morgans Art & Photo
  • Desserts: Are you super busy with holiday festivities? Maybe this is the year that you contract your desserts out. Have a local baker create your family’s pies, cupcakes, and/or cookies. My mom’s friend bakes all of my brothers’ cakes and I know a woman who is an impeccable baker and has made a birthday cake for me. A lot of people offer their services around holiday time for pies, cookies, cupcakes, and pastries. Reach out to friends and see if they know of any talented bakers for hire this season.

 

Are you struggling with gift-giving this year? Reach out to small businesses for gifts that will not only be beautiful and personalized, but that will help grow talented artists’ skills.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Being Generous on a Budget

It’s that time of the year when people start being hyper-aware of generosity and thankfulness. These are both things that we should strive toward on a daily basis, but holidays are a reminder for many. I’ve said this before, but I will say it again. Life is all about balance. It’s about salads and cookies. It’s about exercise and movie marathons. But it’s also about being a generous person without breaking the bank.

Sure, some years generosity is easy. When you have extra money, you can afford to donate a brand-new bike and helmet for a kid’s big Christmas present. But some years aren’t as prosperous and that’s okay! At the end of the day, you have to pay your bills and put food on the table. But have no fear, I have some ideas that can help you feel more fulfilled this giving season without stressing your finances.

  1. Coworkers: Stop by your local Dunkin or bakery and pick up a dozen (or two) doughnuts to show your coworkers how much you appreciate them. Or you could even bake some cookies and bring them in to share. No matter what you choose, I’m sure they will appreciate the token of generosity.
  2. Strangers: A few months ago I was at a gas station and the gentleman in front of me was there buying his daughter a slushie and a snack. He ran out to his car to look for his wallet and I paid for the food and my gas before he could get back. To him it was a big deal, but to me it was a no-brainer. That was probably the best $4 I have ever spent. I have even heard of people paying for the meals of the car behind them at fast food establishments. Sometimes the little things mean a lot to others.
  3. Military: I used to be a pen-pal with a person stationed overseas in the army. I would send him several letters and a themed package monthly. I would include things like games, movies, and candy. There were other options available including simply writing letters to the military member a few times a month. There are many agencies that you could use to help you with this, but I used Soldiers’ Angels specifically because a friend of mine was familiar with it. For a few dollars, you could make someone’s day a little brighter.
  4. Women’s Shelters: I haven’t done this yet, but I am sure that a lot of women’s shelters would be extremely pleased to have donations at this time of the year. Whether that means toiletries, pads and tampons, gloves, nail polish, or anything else that you think could be useful, I’m sure it would be appreciated. I would suggest calling your local facilities to see what they might need or accept. A lot of things could be purchased at stores such as the Dollar Tree.
  5. Schools: A lot of schools have coat drives when the colder months settle in. People will donate new (or maybe even gently used) coats to the school and they will distribute them to children in need. They may even accept hats, scarves, and gloves. Your local Walmart or department store would have all of these available. Call your local school to see if they have a similar program that they are accepting donations for.
  6. Family: Buying presents for family can get very expensive. When you add up the cost for gifting to siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles,… it gets costly. Our family has had awesome success with “Secret Santa” gift giving. Around October (or even November) someone is chosen to be in charge of the event. We write everyone’s names on pieces of paper (separating children from adults) and then pick names for each person to gift to. It’s a surprise until the day of the swap (except for the person delegating of course). We have a $20 limit for the gifts and then when we have our family celebration, everyone has a gift to open and nobody’s wallet is empty. It’s a lot of fun to focus your energy on one or two gifts instead of having to purchase for everyone in your family.
  7. Homeless Shelters: This is another location that could use donations and help around the holiday season.  The colder months lead to an increase in occupancy. You could simply donate your time on Thanksgiving or Christmas to help serve meals. Or, if you would prefer, you could donate toiletries. You might even be able to use that extra yarn you have laying around to crochet/knit scarves and hats to donate. Contact your local shelters for specific information.
  8. Animal Shelters: My family is full of animal lovers. A few years ago, my brothers (who were about 7 and 8 years old at the time) held a lemonade stand and used the money to purchase animal food, treats, and toys for their local animal shelter. I have also heard of children asking for dogs food and other donations instead of gifts for their birthday party. I’m not saying that you need to force your child to do that, but it’s a great conversation to start. Generosity is a great quality to instill in your children at a young age. But you don’t have to have a winter birthday to donate! A lot of animal shelters accept community donations. Call your local animal shelter for details.
  9. Food Banks: Our postal service allies with local food pantries a few times a year for food drives. We will get notice in the mail that they will be running the food drive on a specific date. You can leave any unopened non-perishables that aren’t expired in a bag on your porch and when the postal worker stops to drop off your mail, they pick up your donation. It’s a great way to give back to your community while decluttering your pantry. I am sure that they accept donations at other times also. Some grocery stores will have food drives hosted right there. You can grab groceries for your home, pick up a couple extra things, and drop them right into the box after you pay. Contact your nearby food bank for details – this is a great way to instantly donate to your local community.
  10. Overseas: Many churches link with agencies to donate gifts to children and adults from other countries. Several years ago, I was involved in a church that was affiliated with an agency to allow the congregation to donate care packages of gifts for children in Africa. (Wow, that was a long-winded sentence.) It was awesome that the church, although it did a lot for the community, also thought about other countries where people aren’t as fortunate. Contact the leader of your church to see if this is an option for your congregation.

 

Don’t forget that your time is ultra-valuable! Any volunteering that you can do is a great way to give back to your community and the people around you.

I hope that this post has inspired you to get out there and give this season. Get in the habit of generosity and allow it to become a part of your life. Be the positive light for others that you seek for your own life.

Love Always,

Elizabeth