Health Notes: Give the gift of presence

Counsellor Rhonda Rabuck advises people to slow down and enjoy the moment with family and friends this holiday season

During the holiday season we are bombarded with media messages about what the holidays “should” be like, retail ads, social events, and fundraising activities all lobbying for our dollars or a time slot on our calendars. It is easy to be overwhelmed with “busy-ness” and our stress level can escalate.  Here are a few tips I’ve learned from counseling others as well as some gentle reminders to help you through December.

Be realistic. Take an honest look at your expectations on yourself and on others.  Holidays don’t have to be perfect and neither do people. We don’t transform into super woman/man every December. You can’t do it all. Ask for help and be specific about what you need.

Be flexible. This holiday doesn’t have to be just like last year. Families grow and change as do traditions and rituals. Select a few meaningful traditions to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. In particular, if you have lost someone close to you, find a creative way to honour their memory.

Acknowledge your feelings. If family members cannot be present or if you have lost someone close to you, realize it is normal to experience feelings of sadness or grief. Instead of trying to force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season, take time to cry and express these uncomfortable feelings. You may find that you free up a bit of space within to experience other feelings as well. Perhaps some glimpses of joy, a few moments of peace and the warmth of gratitude.

Self care. Fight the urge to abandon healthy habits and let the holidays become a free for all of overindulgence. This only adds to stress and guilt.

Exercise the “no” muscle. Saying “yes,” when you mean “no” can leave you with feelings of being overwhelmed and resentful. People will understand if you can’t participate in every activity. It is not selfish to ask the question, “Do I want to do this?” Make conscious decisions on where you wish to spend your energy. You will be more fully present to enjoy the things you choose to say “yes” to.

Take time for yourself. Don’t wait until everything is done and then rest. By then it is too late. Take a few short 10 to 15 minute breaks throughout the day to sit quietly, have a cup of tea, take a walk or do some stretching, you will rejuvenate your whole self. Everything that is necessary will be accomplished from a more peaceful place.

Reach out. Loneliness is not uncommon for many people during the holidays. Seek out volunteering opportunities in your community.  You will expand your friendships and lift your spirits.

Seek professional help if you need it. If you find yourself feeling: persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless, unable to meet your daily responsibilities, and are having difficulty sleeping, seek help. This is a gift to yourself.

A wonderful gift we can give others is the gift of our presence.  Make it yours this holiday season.

Rhonda Rabuck is a registered professional counsellor at Okanagan Natural Medicine in Vernon. She can be reached at or 250-275-1672.