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I'm not going to be putting up any Christmas decorations this year, and it's not because the kids aren't home to celebrate … although the idea came out of some full blown screams about their absence. Leaving the ornaments under the stairs is a decision borne by practicality and necessity.
I am exhausted.
A year that began with the loss of our family dog ends with more chaos, illness and death than can be understood with anything we experienced in 2020. The idea of pulling out boxes of popular Christmas decorations and disguising reality with glittering ornaments, red sweater stockings and pearl garlands seem like an effort of futility.
Twinkling lights don't change a thing.
Christmas is not about pines, stockings or peppermint sticks. There's the religious meaning behind the holiday, but it's more than that. This time of year has always been about family, togetherness, and gratitude for what we have.
As you read this, you must be very grateful. Me too.
We lost a heartbreaking number of souls across the world this year. It is devastating to think about, but the lessons we can learn from this tragedy can serve as a guide to living well at any time of the year. And being good enough to learn from this mess deserves gratitude.
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We cannot afford to take our sanity for granted. We have seen the devastation that can occur if not controlled, from increasing anxiety and depression to alcohol abuse and suicide. In October, Japan reported more suicide deaths in one month than all COVID-19 deaths in the year.
And the majority were women.
Let that sink in. Mental health problems disproportionately affect women, and the financial burden the pandemic puts on them is of particular concern. Women have been leaving the workforce in droves since March, with significant economic and emotional consequences that can take years to repair.
Be proactive about our sanity
Waiting until we're in crisis to take care of our sanity is like waking up in the middle of a North Dakota blizzard and driving home on a two-lane highway. The chances of staying in one piece are slim.
No matter where we are on the depression scale, little things can make a big difference (i.e., getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, drinking water, and eating healthy foods). Arrange a virtual visit to your doctor and keep in touch with friends.
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Meaningful connections make us stronger
Even when we can't be together in person, there are so many ways we can stay connected. SMS is the easiest, but also the least effective, method of establishing and maintaining a real connection. The tone in someone's voice, the look on their face, and the emotions you feel while reading the words your loved one puts on paper will connect you more deeply than any emoji ever.
Pick up the phone, schedule regular video chat, and send handwritten notes. Everyone involved will reap the rewards that come from making these meaningful connections, especially when you cannot be together in person.
With apologies to The Rolling Stones, time is not on our side. The truth is we never know how much of it we will have, and that lesson was driven home for all of us this year.
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Make every moment precious
Don't wait to tell someone you love them, don't put off big decisions until you can get it right, and don't fool yourself into believing that there is always tomorrow. Drink champagne, eat sandwiches from Grandma's china, and don't cancel your wedding just because you can't have a grand reception. Embrace every moment you have.
Regret is a nasty disease that has no cure.
Decide what is most important in your life and make these the moments that count. Right now. Being with those I love the most is most important to me. So this year we will be creating Christmas memories and deepening our connections through video chats.
And while some of you may consider me a Grinch for not hanging up the Christmas decorations this year, I don't regret my decision. The vacation is over on December 26th and I won't be stressed and wondering when to cut the tree.
Instead, I eat leftover turkey rolls from the china and enjoy a glass or two of champagne (according to research by OnePoll commissioned by Herbalife, I'm not the only one taking a break from alcohol and calorie intake this year). And maybe, just maybe, I won't be so exhausted by New Year's Eve.