The tables are set. Candles lit. Family close. Glasses full. Food warm.
Perhaps your auntie has already questioned when you’re getting married. Maybe grandma has turned up the volume on that slow tick of your biological clock. It could be that your uncle has repeatedly insisted you change your major for the fifth time, or perhaps your in-laws’ passive aggressive shade was thrown hours ago.
Whatever it is, the holidays often bring strife or trigger bad memories. So what do we do, year after year?
If you’re like me, you put your head down and load up on turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie – all while hoping the food silences your bitter retort. But before you know it, your mind is off the casserole and all over the negativity that the holidays sometimes bring.
Several friends reminded me this year that at our breaking points, what flows out of us is exactly what we’ve been feeding ourselves. To ensure a peaceful and warm holiday season, it’s time to feed yourself three things that are often forgotten.
And I’m not talking about the cranberry sauce. (Because let’s be real, who wants to remember that?)
What to Feed Your Mind
Have you ever noticed what your mind thinks about when you’re still?
Take a moment and close your eyes. Observe your thoughts.
Off the cuff, my mind wanders to money concerns. Should I have bought that? When is this bill due? Will everything be okay?
Then, they trickle to the opinions of others. How did I act back there? Did I offend someone? Am I loved?
Finally, they run to fear of the future. What’s next year going to look like? What if I’m unhappy? Am I ever going to accomplish my goal?
My natural, uncontrolled thoughts tend to steer towards fear and worry. Yours might go to anger and shame. Perhaps they lean towards unattainable goals or apathetic laziness. Wherever they go, take note of them.
Then, feed your mind with positivity and gratitude.
Breathe love into your fears and patience into your anger. I often do this through prayer and journaling. You can do this through reading, exercise, yoga, or simply closing your eyes and breathing.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”Philippians 4:8
Feed your mind with gratitude not only around Thanksgiving, but at all times of the year. My third-graders did a thankfulness challenge this year where we gave thanks for unusual parts of our life that often go unnoticed. We gave thanks for something about ourselves, a piece of art we treasure, a goal we have, some good news, and so on. The responses were captivating and always produced a smile. It is impossible to be angry while giving thanks.
As you feed your mind with things that are good, you will dwell less on any negativity that the holidays may bring.
What to Feed Your Body
When I don’t prepare food for the week, I throw a yogurt or a protein bar in my bag for lunch. It holds my hunger for part of the day, but by the time bus call rolls around, I’m shot. I don’t have patience for anything or anyone. I can’t think straight. I’m tired. The moment my feet step through the doorway to my living room, I’m ready for bed. And don’t even think about having an important, stressful conversation with me…my capacity is spent. I am the worst version of myself.
Our bodies need something from us to operate properly, especially when stressful situations arise. I’ve battled with feeding my body properly in countless ways over the years, and it’s affected my reaction to stress in major ways.
Do any of these situations resonate with you?
I’ve fed others before feeding myself.
This looks like overworking to ensure everyone else’s care and putting my own care on the back burner. If I work hard enough to help others, I’ll be valued. But really, my body desperately needs to be fed before I can feed others. The end result? Burnout, lack of productivity, and loneliness.
I’ve malnourished my body.
I did this in hopes of meeting ridiculous expectations. End result? Frustration and emptiness.
I’ve binged to fill a space that couldn’t be filled with food.
The end result? More and more hunger.
I’ve fed my body with comparison.
When you compare your life with another, it always produces discontentment. A step beyond comparison is envy – a resentful desire of what someone else has. I’ve struggled with envying others’ productivity and desperately envied their success. The end result? More unhappiness. Less productivity and success.
But when I eat lunch, I am the best version of me.
I’m no longer trying to fill a void with material things. I don’t have to be someone I’m not or impress anyone else. I don’t have to focus on what I’m lacking. My lunch sustains me.
Feed your body with what it needs to be its best. Eat your lunch, people.
What to Feed Your Spirit
Last week – just one week before Thanksgiving – I was in a car accident that nearly killed me. A massive Ford F-150 hit the driver’s side of my tiny Honda Civic. All my airbags deployed. Glass shattered. My car was totaled. Somehow, I managed to walk away with just a few bruises.
It was like all of the prayers ever uttered for me joined together and saved my life. And I know it wasn’t an accident. It was the angels. It was goodness leading me and mercy following me. It was something bigger than myself. Because of the prayers of my close friends and family, I was able to cling to the goodness of God and praise him for the life he spared that day.
In moments of stress and trauma, my prayer is that the fruits of the spirit – ones only God can give – would fill your heart. That you wouldn’t act out in the way your flesh desires, but you’d let the spirit lead you.
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”Galatians 5:22-23
This holiday season, I hope you fill your plate with every good food and every lovely thought.
May you stay near to the ones you love.
May you always hug them tight, and remember that what you feed yourself with daily will flow out of you in moments of stress.
Finally, may you never forget to feed yourself.
(Unless it’s the cranberry sauce.)