Just about this time of year a little more than a decade ago, I received this well-considered message from my dear friend and colleague, the late Jim Kern:

“We’re all facing the holidays where too often we spend too much, do too much, eat too much, sleep too little, meditate too little and quite often neglect the most important person in our lives — ourselves.”

As so often happened with the wisdom coming from my old friend, that message is right on target for this hectic, often frantic, time of year.

With just a little more than three weeks to go before the big day, it’s so easy for us to become tangled in the trappings of the holidays that we seldom can find a scintilla of meaningful time for ourselves permitting the weight of it all to overwhelm us. For most of us, that becomes not only overly stressful but significantly unhealthy.

My Uncle George referred to this time of year as the SOS — the Season of Stress — and I think he was on to something. As you may recall, originally SOS was the Morse Code distress signal created in the early 1900’s during those early days of dots and dashes communication. In time, the SOS signal took on another meaning – Save Our Souls. Can you think of anything more appropriate to describe the chaos, confusion, and commotion brought on by the frenzy that has become the holiday season often beginning even before Halloween.

Think for a moment what all the holidays brings to us : Christmas card writing, gift buying, house decorating, tree trimming, super shopping, holiday baking, catalog cruising, wassail sipping, mall manipulating, kids anticipating, parents budgeting (or not!), gift wrapping, gift exchanging — I’m certain I’ve left something out, but you get the idea.

The annual intrusion that accompanies the holidays seems to take up temporary residence in our lives taking its toll on our finances, our feelings and our families. So how do we answer that Christmas SOS call?

For starters, deliberately prioritize some time — no matter how small — to still your mind and simply openly, without the guilt, welcome the company of silence. Escape! Escape even if its for a brief 30 minutes or so.

Also give yourself permission to say “No.” Don’t permit yourself to drown in the open sea of merriment by opting out of a party or two even if you’ve never done so before. Indeed, some holiday traditions should be broken particularly if that Christmas party or annual get-together is something you honestly don’t enjoy anyhow.

Ben Franklin reminded us that “One today is worth two tomorrows” and in the midst of all that planning and anticipating, just focus on today only without fear of what tomorrow may or may not bring.

And please forego perfection. Try not to set your expectations so high for Christmas they can’t possibly measure up. Face it, nothing you can do will ever come close to that very first Christmas so long ago — you know the one we are supposed to celebrate as the reason for the season.

Remember, Dec. 25 will arrive when it’s supposed to whether you’re ready or not. So perhaps the best present you can give is for you to be your own best self when it comes.

Honestly, taking care of yourself enables you to reach out to others in a way that defines the true meaning of Christmas for everyone.

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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