Happy New Year! How did you find those odd days, suspended between Christmas and New Year? After a busy year, that seems so fast-paced in comparison to the last 2, nearly 3 years of Covid, Christmas arrived much sooner than expected in our household.
It’s been a blessing to finally celebrate Christmas without any Covid restrictions- but perhaps you too felt the expectations, demands even, of others, as to what Christmas arrangements would look like? We were able to have our usual turkey feast, with different family members cooking different parts of the meal and helping decorate the table but somehow it felt more of an effort, perhaps as we haven’t catered for so many for awhile.
The reality for me was real exhaustion before Christmas even started, and so trying to simplify food preparation and present buying was really important. As I read about preparing for Christmas in Rachael Newham’s book ‘And Yet’, I wanted to put Jesus’birth in the forefront of our celebrations. To keep that message of joy at the heart of our meal. However as we overran in our meal timings, the Bible verses announcing Jesus’ birth didn’t make it into the schedule. The best I had personally managed was listening to a Christmas Day Bible reading in the morning.
It can be easy to lose momentum in the anti-climax after Christmas and even into the New Year. The change in or lack of routine can cause confusion in managing the day. Having some simple structure, even waking up at the same time each day and going to bed at the same time each night helps maintain a good sleep pattern.
My quiet times in the mornings have remained a regular occurrence though, and it’s given me space to look back over the year and recognise where God’s been at work in my family’s lives and my own. There’s so much to be thankful for, despite the challenges of ill-health, near burnout and one son moving out to start his church internship. This process of reviewing the year (or past day) is known as Examen, devised by St Ignatius of Loyola. It involves recognising where God’s been working and thanking Him for it as well as the difficulties.
If you don’t have a faith, it’s still helpful to reflect back over the year that’s passed and recognise what you’re thankful for and where the challenges have been. Also, recognising what you want to leave behind in 2022 and what you’d like to do more of, are healthy behaviours to have. I know that I want to leave bitterness and resentment behind and move more into quickly forgiving and extending grace and love to all I meet.
Seeing this period as a time to rest and recuperate can keep our minds in a positive mindset and allow us to catch up on lost sleep. It’s so easy to get sucked into the busyness of seeing too many friends and family which may tire us out emotionally and physically. Or it may be the opposite, where we avoid socialising or feel isolated, in which case, reaching out to a trusted friend or calling a helpline such as the Samaritans (116 123 in the UK) may remind us that we’re not alone. Warm hubs are also available across the UK as places to visit to stay warm (if you can’t afford to put the heating on much) and meet others.
Then there are the temptations of rich or sugary food/ alcohol which can interfere with our mood, and even add to that sluggish feeling. Having a limit on how many treats we have a day (or none at all) may help. I try to remind myself of the sugar hangover I’ll get from consuming high levels of sugar. This can help me to resist sometimes.
And there’s the pressure to make New Year’s resolutions, that can do easily be abandoned within a few weeks…I prefer to do New Year’s intentions instead, which feel less forced than resolutions. If I don’t meet my weight loss goal in the next month then ok, how much closer am I to that goal? Having a bit more self-compassion and a little less stick of beating myself up if I fail.
So as we move into this new year, why not reflect back on 2022 and recognise what you’re thankful for? Then be honest with yourself about where the challenges have been. What do you want to carry forward from 2022 and what do you want to leave behind?