The Best Gift of All

by Chris Marchioni, MD, Executive Director Healthy Learning Paths

December brings excitement, anticipation, and joy. For some families, it is also a time of reflection, memories, and unwelcome stress.  The holidays can bring a season of exhausting emotional roller coasters.

Although holidays are a time for family celebrations, for some there is a looming emptiness left from the absence of loved ones.  From serving in the military overseas to suffering from chronic illness to loss of a grandparent through death,  these situations often overshadow holiday joys and add to a hollowness we carry from missing family members.

As we struggle with this stressful burden, it is important to know that you are not alone.  We have a connection with many others around us, both friends and family.  As we rush in holiday preparation with shopping, decorations, and meal planning, each one of us benefits from a long pause—a pause to offer a smile or a gentle squeeze to the arm of a friend or relative.  A pause to offer a listening ear or an understanding heart for loneliness or sadness one may bear.  A pause to recognize how important every child, parent, and grandparent are to us and to others.  A pause to simply slow down and connect to others.

We all have soothing strengths and fragile weaknesses.  However, the holiday season puts each of us to the test.  Even young children and teenagers experience some of the emotional challenges of the holiday season.  To ease the pain of these feelings, sometimes it only takes talking with a friend, parent, or counselor.  What really matters is to find the courage to seek some help to work past the sadness or stress, whatever the cause.  Keep in mind that this does not mean that we are flawed because of these feelings.  It only means that we are amazing humans!

As we create our gift list this season, here are some unique ideas that will make shopping much more enjoyable.  Let’s take the time to listen and to talk with children and adults who experience holiday stress or sadness, this is more valuable than any brightly wrapped toy or gift.  Let’s connect to others with compassionate conversation and kindness, as this fills the hollowness and sadness with hints of peace and joy.  We cannot forget to make adequate sleep a priority, eat healthy foods, drink water, and venture outside the malls for a walk to sustain positive mind and body energy. These gifts are not sold in any stores or on the web.  In fact, these gifts are so valuable that they are priceless, utterly impossible to measure in dollars.

Perhaps the most important, the absolute best gift of all, the gift of kindness and connection to one another is what we all need under our tree.  Happy and Healthy Holidays!