I still remember as a little girl while at school, I suddenly began to feel very poorly and almost passed out. When the school nurse took my temperature, she immediately called my father to come bring me home. By the time he got there, the cold compresses had had their effect and I felt quite normal. My father punished me for faking a temperature and pretending to faint. To this day when I get sick, I try to power through, convincing myself that it will pass.
That’s called a powerful memory and we all have them. They inform how we react to all types of things, little and big, in our everyday life. Christmas has its fair share of powerful memories. When we believe that Christmas is supposed to be magical and perfect, this can be a recipe for disaster if we let these false beliefs guide us.
There can also be a cultural moral high ground for productivity which can dilute our logic. People feel guilty for taking a few days off year round. Just to be clear, the “Protestant Work Ethic” had it wrong. You won’t go to heaven more if you work yourself to death.
“The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.” Tim Kreider
Last week, after writing out a “must do” list, I found myself hacking up a lung and parking myself on the couch, sipping lemon and ginger root tea while watching cheesy Christmas movies. With all the germ sharing we do at this time of year, I won’t be the only one who gets hit with a cold or the flu.
In my misery, I remembered where my family got taken down by a bug during Christmas week. There are too many Christmases where the shine was dulled by illness. Several times, Christmas Day got completely postponed and everyone stayed home to avoid more cross-contamination!
So what you do to get through the next few weeks if an unplanned bug shows up to mess up your plans?
#1 Reach out and ask for help
While Tylenol became my best friend for a few days, despite feeling pretty crummy, I posted a simple little message on Facebook asking what people did in my circumstances. The responses, simple advice and words of encouragement reduced my feelings of isolation and made me feel loved while providing me with good ideas. I also knew that my husband would do anything I needed as long as I asked. (Yes ladies you have to ask!) For this I was truly grateful.
#2 Practice gratitude
Gratitude releases endorphins which help us feel better while increasing our immune system. Finding ways to feel grateful while we are sick shortens the recovery time. Don’t wait until you’re sick. Try gratitude right now. Take a deep breath, smile and say to yourself (quietly or out loudly), “I am so grateful to have a roof over my head; for people who love me despite my quirks, and that I can walk and talk and laugh and …” At one point, I was grateful for the soothing cream I could put on my nose. Feeling thankful in the moment took my focus off my “must do” list.
#3 Reframe “what is important”
For some people, Christmas is a major production where everything is scripted in advance. It doesn’t really add pleasure to the experience when we are “shoulding” all over ourselves. “I should do this, I should do that!”. Instead, let go of your Martha Stewart syndrome and get in touch with the love and connections that you have. The true spirit of the Christmas holidays is meant to be peace, hope, joy, love. There’s nothing there about perfectly wrapped gifts. Personally, if you know someone who has a cold, just give them Kleenex with the lotion embedded in it. Or a lovely foot rub. No need to wrap either.
#4 Be honest
I have a lovely relative who just went through a rough time. She has trouble setting boundaries and she apologizes for everything. (She even apologizes when you ask her to stop apologizing.) I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday and I asked her to please be selfish. If she wanted to see us, that was great! If she didn’t want to see us, that was great too! The reality is that sometimes we just don’t feel up to being social. When you are under the weather (physically or emotionally), it’s time to start setting up some healthy boundaries. It’s okay to not want to be somewhere or to choose to spend time with a specific person to the exclusion of others.
OK, this one may seem silly to point out. Really successful people sleep enough. Years ago, Oprah shared that sometimes she goes to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 PM because she’s tired. Now, Arianna Huffington is trying to revolutionize how we treat sleep after she burned out from overwork. We absolutely need to prioritize sleep to stay well and to recover when we get sick. So take something off that “must do” list and go to bed early.
“I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.” Joyce Meyer
I took a philosophical approach to getting sick and decided that God meant for me to take a couple of days off. I know I shaved off days of misery. I guess I should count myself lucky because I know that by Christmas day, I got the local bug out of the way and will feel great.
I think we should move the holiday season to after the cold and flu season to increase the chances that everyone feels great.
A spring Christmas season! Who’s with me? 🙂
Are you having trouble setting boundaries while you are sick? There’s a recipe on how to ask people to change their behaviors.