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Meaningful and Stress Less Holidays

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB ASCHP  medical doctor, author, specialist health and wellbeing coach, public speaker and trainer. Visit for more information.


Many of us often get the feeling that the December holidays could be more meaningful, especially this year, with a little less emphasis on the physical, don’t you agree? Have the holidays become too commercial for you? Making some simple changes, adding a few easy activities – for yourself, your family and friends – will ensure a more meaningful holiday. Following are some ideas.

Learn and then share with others, the spiritual and symbolic meaning of various practices from the traditions of different religions and spiritual groups:

  • The candles are lit on Hanukah to symbolise the light of the Creator in our lives.
  • The Christmas wreath is a symbol of the eternal circle of life.
  • The gifts shared during Kwanzaa represent the deep connection between parents and children. (Wikipedia: The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase ‘matunda ya kwanza’, meaning first fruits of the harvest).
  • The sun’s return and warmth are celebrated during the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and the bounty of summer and the harvest, in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in the Hindu tradition as symbol of the inner spiritual journey to light, and knowledge to transcend ignorance.
  • Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, share the beautiful miracles within each faith and then have your loved ones share some of the miracles in their own lives.

Practicing gratitude during the holidays means not only to show appreciation for material gifts, but also for all the many intangible blessings in our lives. Give gifts from the heart that show how grateful you are to have your loved ones in your life.  You can empower yourself and loved ones with tools to make the holidays more meaningful by doing something special for the less fortunate, such as spending time with a lonely elderly person in an old-age home, or giving groceries to someone less fortunate than you are. 

Celebrate differences because we can only truly come together in unity once we embrace these differences.   You essentially need to slow down enough to enjoy the essence of your loved ones and of the holidays.  Our children, families and friends are at the heart of rediscovering the true meaning of the holidays, as one of rest, recovery and reflection.

Stress less holiday tips

  • Try to eat healthy on your holiday, lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, smoothies, fresh water and herbal teas to drink. Most people stop taking their supplements during the holidays when you should continue your normal ritual.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stick to your exercise program adapted to the holidays: try more yoga, swimming, dancing or walking.
  • Give yourself some time for introspection and being alone, to enjoy and experience all that is happening in your day. Keep a dream diary next to your bed. 
  • Treat yourself to a lovely bath with aromatherapy oils such as lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang or neroli or go for a deep tissue massage.
  • Care for yourself with a good natural UV-protection moisturiser or tanning lotion applied to a smooth, well scrubbed body, deep facial cleanses and facial masks made of finely chopped cucumber, yogurt and lemon juice. Also get some sunlight healing vitamin D exposure with no sunscreen, on bare skin, early morning (within an hour of sunrise) and later afternoon (within an hour before sunset)
  • Read, write, dream and release your imagination and intuition
  • Do short relaxation exercises that will allow you to become calm inside, and turn your attention away from outside things, people and situations that upset you.
  • Alone time, especially in nature, provides time out and a chance to focus on your soul centre or Inner Being, and experience the here and now with appreciation. Enjoy nature using all your senses. Take these moments to write down your values, beliefs, goals and priorities and find out what is important to you. 
  • If your family (including the children) starts to mistreat you, it is time to explain to them gently yet assertively what your view on the specific issue is. Start creating a chore schedule where everybody is responsible for certain duties/tasks.

This will ensure a happy time of connecting with yourself, close and extended family, and friends. Remember to be realistic about your expectations of the holidays and to use them to be yourself and to reconnect with your authentic inner being. Enjoy every day as it comes without expectations. Relax!

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