Enjoying a Healthy Holiday Season

With the hectic holiday season nearly upon us, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the many opportunities for joy hidden amongst all of the planning, travel, gift-giving and obligations. In between opportunities to connect with friends, family, and community, this can be a great time to focus on how we give, as well as what we give. In the medical and health care industry, we give a lot–we do work that matters. It brings us satisfaction, happiness, a sense of purpose. So, why am I suggesting that we look at how to give more of ourselves during a time of the year when we might feel already pulled in so many directions? Because doing good, giving back, and establishing the personal boundaries needed to sustain holiday cheer is a matter of health, first and foremost.

While research shows that giving back or being of service can undoubtedly provide real benefit to others, we also know that there is personal incentive. Giving (under the right circumstances and means) makes us feel better.

It's simple science, right?  Here’s the catch: Defining how you give can make the difference between feeling grateful and feeling grated, full of energy or flat-out exhausted.

Let me offer some food for thought as we approach the coming weeks.

Don’t overfill the cup
Leave a little room. Once we’ve reached our limit, going beyond it doesn’t always produce the best results. They say we can only give of ourselves so much before we need a little in return. Utilize early (and confident) communication to establish your own limits to those that count on you, personally and professionally.

Get to know the neighbors
Nobody ever gets it all done on their own, all the time. Whether we are able to share the holidays with our families or share a moment with a stranger, don’t discount the value in breaking down old barriers and preconceived notions. Reach out in order to give not in terms of material goods or monetary gain, but in terms of the currency of kindness.

Be all-inclusive
The holidays are, by their very nature, examples of meaningful cultural and historical diversity in action. With all of the traditions and significance at play, perhaps we can learn a lesson on the democratizing of good will. Our fellow men and women are sometimes the best source of inspiration. Can you seek out others who share similar goals or like-minded aspirations in order to amplify the benefits of your giving? What can you do to give back to all regardless of race, gender, faith, or economics at the level you’re comfortable with? Contemplating the answers to these questions might well be the start of widening the impact of your generosity.

Don’t get me wrong, these are just a few steps to start the process. As we think more about how we give, these ideas are meant to remind us that the benefit of giving affects our bodies, minds, and hearts equally. The next time you find yourself overwhelmed with the stress of holiday giving, it could be a sign that you need to take a break for you. The season’s best includes your health and well-being at its center.