Thursday, December 10, 2009

Depressurizing this time of year

Depressurizing this time of year

November 28, 2009

By Julie Kay Smithson

This kind of depressurizing isn't about wetsuits and water, but has the same healthful effect.

Many readers are feeling pressured to SSS and SSS -- shop, shop, shop and spend, spend, spend -- at this time of year. It's nice to be able to visit stores and other businesses and give them our business, but do we need to spend simply for spending's sake? How many people do we know that are "hard to shop for" because they already have everything they need?

Here are a few suggestions to help make this Christmas season one you will remember for other reasons besides pressure to spend:

Meet friends/family and take a walk in a nearby park or other relaxing location. Take time to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons and even bestow random acts of kindness that last a lifetime -- from lying in a pile of leaves to holding gloved or mittened hands and from a friendly hug to a pat on the back for just being able to share such times with others!

Is there a friend or family member that you've not visited with in quite awhile? Consider inviting him/her/them out for a nice meal. The location need not be fancy or high-priced as much as it should be warm and friendly. There are many places to gather and dine that are in Madison County. Go out to eat to a place you can all enjoy, a place you'll be able to hear one another's voices and revel in the retelling of special times while making a new memory. At meal's end, there are no dishes to wash or kitchen cleanup.

A simple phone call to 'visit' -- when an in-person visit isn't possible -- is comforting and comfortable, especially if you can do it at a time that's good for both caller and callee.

The local thrift store is a fine place to go for great items at terrific prices, and the benefits are far-reaching. Some thrift stores' revenues benefit others in your community, and the recipients of your 'thrifting' can range from shared smiles and conversation with others to simply browsing without the pressure of feeling that you must buy something. If you do make a purchase, spending a few dollars on an item that you are certain a special person will love has several benefits, including the recycling of quality, usable items.

Take a nice evening drive and look at the Christmas garlands and lights that are being added to the nighttime scenery this time of year. There are so many displays 'on display' that you needn't go far afield. For those in your vehicle that may feel the cold more, bring a toasty afghan or other warm snuggly for them, and keep in mind that hot beverages are on hand in many places to warm the hands and innards!

Consider the time-honored things to do, like sit down with a pen and paper or cards (and yes! you can make homemade cards that will be cherished) and simply write a little note or letter to someone to tell them how much they mean to you. Just a heartfelt note like "I miss the good times we've had and relive them with you in memory" or "We need to get together in January; let's set a date, and a 'snow date,' now and make plans to share an afternoon or evening" or "My Scrabble game misses your quick wit" -- there are so many ways to tell others that you care!

Our loved ones whose remains rest in local cemeteries are worthy of a visit, even if you simply sit in your car and remember the good times you had with them. Cemeteries need not be places of sadness, but can be places of solace. Deciding to celebrate the good -- and shed the rest -- is a decision that helps everyone feel better.

Take the time to pause and offer yourself to those that need you. This may be done in many forms and can take the form of Christmas caroling, a warm meal delivered, a plate of warm cookies shared with neighbors, a helping hand lent to a local animal shelter, senior center, rec center, local library, historical center -- the possibilities are many, the results, tremendously uplifting. Animals in need of a walk or a meal -- whether they are our pets, lost/abandoned dogs and cats at the shelter, or the backyard birds/wildlife -- will benefit from a little time, a kind voice and your caring.

Do you know someone who needs to get out and run some errands, but doesn't have transportation? Perhaps you could offer your afternoon and take them to places like the grocery store, Post Office, to visit a loved one at a nursing home or cemetery, etc. You'll both be so glad you did!

Do something as simple as sweeping or shoveling a neighbor's sidewalk or driveway. You needn't do it all, but if you are blessed with energy and a bit of steam, it's a great way to expend both and do a wonderful thing at the same time. People become friends over kindnesses. What better time to stretch out our hands and hearts?

869 words.

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