The holiday season brings a long to-do list: decorate the house, bake the turkey, buy a gift for the next social event, send out cards, attend family gatherings and so on. Yet for all these attempts at getting together, experiencing meaningful human connection can get lost in the shuffle.
Holiday bustle raises stress levels for 62 percent of people according to a Healthline report, potentially defeating the purpose of this most wonderful time of the year. As the 2017 holiday season begins, be mindful of slowing down to create healthy connections around you.
Here are four areas in which to promote and strengthen human connectedness:
Don’t lose sight of yourself. Many people overlook tuning in to their own needs, especially at the holidays. It isn’t selfish to be concerned with self-care. Whether it’s saying “no” to something, spending time outdoors, reading or taking time to rest, identify what you need to incorporate in a regular routine. Making your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health a priority can contribute to a more balanced you, which will be a gift to others.
Earlier this year, a report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that social integration can help relieve daily stresses. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, reach out to a close friend and intentionally let them know how important they are to you. A phone call, text or simple card can go a long way. If time and schedule allows, organize a dinner or Friendsgiving to connect in person.
Spending time with loved ones and family can also be positively influential to your health. Participate in a family tradition or create a new one to bolster relationships and make this holiday season especially memorable. It’s true that family get-togethers can be difficult due to schedules, distance and other commitments, so consider sending handwritten cards or scheduling video chats to connect with long-distance loved ones as needed.
Lastly, don’t forget the power of giving back. The Corporation for National & Community Service reports there is a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have greater functional ability, plus lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t make it a point to lend a hand. Consider giving back or volunteering for a cause that is meaningful to you this holiday season—opportunities abound!
While we can’t escape every aspect of holiday hurriedness, there’s always peace in the thoughtful connections we build with one another. A caring presence makes a great present. Be that to yourself, your friends, family and community, and you’re likely to receive that same gift in return.
For more advice and education on a variety of health-related topics, visit the Health & Wellness page at centerstone.org.
Beth Hail is regional vice president for Centerstone, serving its central Tennessee region. She holds a master’s degree in social work administration and is a licensed clinical social worker.