Yesterday, I spent the afternoon hosting a Christmas party with the Junior Women's Club for children receiving chemotherapy at our local children's hospital. We brought lunch and Santa, who passed out stuffed animals and gift cards we had donated. As you can imagine, it was a simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking experience.
There was one moment that had a particular impact on me. After one of the kids had met with Santa, his mom jokingly asked if she could go next. Santa laughed, patted his knee and asked "what would you like for Christmas, young lady?"
She smiled a huge smile and replied, "Oh Santa, you know I just want my baby to be healthy again. That's really all. But you know, I wouldn't turn away a new car if it showed up under my tree!"
They laughed. I laughed, partly because of her positive attitude in such a horrible situation, but mostly to prevent myself from breaking down in tears. Suddenly, my Christmas list seemed completely frivolous. I thought I was being "practical" this year, asking for things I supposedly need, rather than my usual list of trendy clothes and jewelry. But having your son cured of cancer is a need, not a new pair of skinny jeans. Living a joyful and fulfilled life is a need, not new photography equipment.
As I drove home and reflected on the experience, I hit me just how lucky I am that I don't need to use a spot on my Christmas list wishing for the health of a loved one. Consider yourself blessed if you can do the same.
Watching someone you love succumb to disease, whether physical or psychological, is horrible, tragic and excruciatingly painful. On the other hand, the pursuit of health and happiness, even if you fall short, can have powerful effects on everyone you come in contact with.
It dawned on me. The most profound and special gift you can give isn't something that can be wrapped up under the tree. It's a personal commitment to pursuing your maximum state of health.
It may sound selfish, but I promise, being your best possible and healthiest self is anything but. Your wellness, or lack thereof, can profoundly impact your family and friends.
Caring for someone who is battling chronic disease is a heartbreaking struggle and one of the most stressful life events. There's a reason 70% of caregivers have depression. But there are steps you can take to ensure your loved ones never have to go through something like that.
Even on a less severe level, it can be a struggle to be around someone who is unwell. Whether it's anxiety, depression or simply chronic fatigue, low energy and negativity rub off on others. A few years ago when I was really struggling with anxiety, I remember my fiancee, now husband, who is one of the most positive, laid back people I've ever met, started complaining that he was feeling down all the time. My constantly feeling blah was rubbing off on him. It was a reality check that forced me to prioritize self-care.
On the other hand, how amazing does it feel when you're in the presence of someone who is truly thriving? Positive energy radiates from them and makes everyone around instantly feel better. Their happiness truly is contagious! Well guess what? You can decide to be that person!
This Christmas, Scott and I decided not to exchange gifts. We're cutting back, plus, we already have everything we could want. Well, I'm gonna go ahead and break that rule and give him a gift he can unwrap early - a commitment to myself to prioritize self-care and wellness. It's been a total transformation from the days I really used to struggle with anxiety, but there are still times when it sneaks up on me, turning me into someone who is generally unpleasant to be around. It's totally unfair for him to have to deal with that.
So, this Christmas I'm giving him a commitment to be consistent with yoga and meditation, which make me feel so much better. I'm going to do better with my eating habits, prioritizing mood enhancing foods like fatty fish and fermented foods. I'm also to tackle my struggles with social eating, since there are still many times I eat not-so-nutritious foods I don't enjoy that leave me feeling pretty crappy. I'm making a commitment to prioritizing "me time," since I tend to slip into workaholic habits pretty easily.
I encourage you to join me in giving the gift of your health this holiday season. If you like, I would love for you to share your personal commitment in the comments!
Although it feels quite silly to talk about actual gifts after writing a post like this, I've gotten a couple requests for healthy gift ideas. I love the idea of giving something that will promote healthy habits. Here's some ideas for my fellow last minute shoppers!
1. Single Serving Blender // These blenders mix up your smoothie right in the glass, perfect for people who travel for work. Its small and easy to fit into carry on luggage. Pack this blender, fruit, and small bags of vegan protein powder and your favorite smoothie add-ins to create a nutritious breakfast that will keep you away from the hotel's breakfast bar. 2. Electric Pressure Cooker // People make fun of me for using a pressure cooker, but seriously, it's life changing! It cooks brown rice in 15 minutes and dry beans in 30, making it easy to include these nutritious foods on a weekday. 3. Smoothie Gift Basket // How cute are these mason jar mugs? Pack these in a gift basket along with my favorite smoothie add-ins, like raw cacao powder, maca powder, chia seeds, spirulina, turmeric, or vegan protein powder 4. Meditation Pillow // This meditation pillow set gives you options of multiple positions. While you're at it, throw in the Introduction to the Practice of Meditation so they know it's not all about crystal balls and "ommm" 5. CSA // A CSA, or community supported agriculture box is a perfect way to get someone back on track after holiday indulgences. Look for a CSA near you on local harvest. If you live in Columbia, City Roots is offering a special 4-week winter CSA packed with all the greens and microgreens you could need. 6. Nutrition Services // Give the gift of a year of healthy inspiration with my New Year, New You program. It includes twelve 45-minute sessions that can be done here in Columbia, or via telephone or Skype, along with recipes and handy nutrition guides. I'm only running this special until the end of the year and space is limited, but I still have a few spots available. Check out my services page for more info or email me at AnAvocadoADayRD@gmail.com. So, what are you giving your loved ones this season?