Are the coming holidays generating stress and anxiety? Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

Are the coming holidays generating stress and anxiety? Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

The wonderful strength of our native oaks shines through in the falling snow

The wonderful strength of our native oaks shines through in the falling snow

Crowds, lights, traffic can create an exciting atmosphere but can also stress our brain! Photo byBrandon MattinglyonUnsplash

Crowds, lights, traffic can create an exciting atmosphere but can also stress our brain! Photo byBrandon MattinglyonUnsplash

The beautiful branching structure of the native Alternate-leaf Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) really shines at this time of year.

The beautiful branching structure of the native Alternate-leaf Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) really shines at this time of year.

Take time to notice nature as you walk. Photo byMax LaRochelleonUnsplash

Take time to notice nature as you walk. Photo byMax LaRochelleonUnsplash

...the slender branching of our native clematis, Clematis virginiana. Photo: Cindy Crosby

...the slender branching of our native clematis, Clematis virginiana. Photo: Cindy Crosby

The subtle evidence of life all around us. Photo: Cindy Crosby

The subtle evidence of life all around us. Photo: Cindy Crosby

The joy of an unexpected gift. Photo by Ray HennessyonUnsplash

The joy of an unexpected gift. Photo by Ray HennessyonUnsplash

Remember Gifts to Ourselves This Season

As the holiday approaches, many of us feel a build-up of stress, pressure and tension rather than the sense of joy we always hope for. Remember the TV commercial for coffee? I don’t remember the brand now (was it Folgers?) where the son comes home early for Christmas and starts the coffee brewing? The smell of it wakes up his mother. Her tone of voice as she comes into the kitchen and exclaims, “Oh! You’re home!” is so filled with love and joy! What a perfect statement for what all of us would like for the holidays!

Even if we are lucky enough to have that perfect homecoming, that perfect sense of love and welcome, I would guess that it is just as easy for many of us to still experience at least some anxiety, worry or depression around the holidays.

We need to remember to take care of ourselves along with everyone else this season. Health.com offers 25 tips for fighting holiday stress. There are many other good sites with suggestions too, but this one with 25 intrigued me just because they offered so many. And, ah ha!, their first suggestion is spending time outdoors or near a sunny window. True, their post is more focused on addressing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but I am choosing to usurp the idea knowing the benefits (physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual) of spending time in nature. And it does mention that walking decreases anxiety and improves sleep. That’s in a park or forest preserve by the way, not walking briskly between shops or your car and the grocery store!

Though cold, spending a bit of time in nature – even now – is renewing to both your spirit and your health. Take time to notice nature around you this season. Our own prairies, woodlands and native gardens have their own quiet beauty to share.

The American Heart Association lists these benefits from spending time in natural environment:

Depression: A walk in nature – or even a view of it through a window – will help lift feelings of depression

Stress: All of the bright lights, busy traffic and crowds of people stress our brain. Time in nature soothes frazzled nerves.

Anxiety: Working out in nature, even walking, helps to reduce anxiety more than exercising in a gym.

Focusing on negative problems: Research has shown that a 90 minute walk in nature decreases brain activity linked to this type of rumination so bundle up!

Mental fatigue: Your brain as well as your body needs time to recharge. Sitting in front of the television doesn’t do it but a walk in nature does!

Feeling Isolated: Although you are alone, spending time in nature builds a sense of belonging to the greater world, to something larger than ourselves that eases feelings of disconnection.

Take time for a walk in nature, in between shopping, entertaining, wrapping, cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating… Take the dog out for just a moment. Breathe in the cold air, relax your shoulders, appreciate the details of life that go on under your very nose.

And remember - to return to Parker Palmer this month - that the very best gifts are intangible…

We wish you a very joyous and loving holiday season! Thank you for your gift of reading this newsletter and sharing your thoughts with us!

 

References for Further Reading:

Six Simple Practices to Handle Holiday Stress

American Heart Association: Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

American Heart Association: Ten Ways to Relax in Nature and Stress Less