Today, Matt and I have a long-distance conversation about some of the ways we can not only take comfort in the promises of God during this time, but also very specific activities (or, as our daughter has dubbed them “quarantivities”) to fill our time wisely and with fun!
It must be said that in the less than 24 hours since recording this, things have changed here in the US and also with me, Brandy. While much of our conversation is focused on dealing with anxiety, I rather ironically, have been feeling my fair share of it. That being said, I remembered this conversation and took a dose of my own advice (“listen to music” and “turn off the news for a minute”) and am feeling markedly better.
This isn’t just lip service. This advice is practical and beneficial. I hope you take it and share it with people you love.
Self-Care and Activities During Quarantine:
2. Read the Bible: Psalms are great – try Psalm 23
4. Write letters and send them to loved ones
5. Listen to music you love
6. Spend time with your kids: Conversations, shooting hoops, video games, reading books, crafts, etc…
7. Go for a walk: fresh air + Vitamin D = good for ya!
8. Jigsaw puzzles
9. Complete your To-Do List: or at least knock it down – all those projects that you’re saving for “someday”
10. Work on a dream project: write the book, learn the instrument, read the series…
Things to Avoid:
1. Steady stream of news: Stay informed, but don’t only feed on a media diet of the news
2. Hours of Social Media: See above…
3. Binging on Netflix for the entire time: Give yourself limits and keep your body and brain active
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health during this time, so don’t neglect it!
If you’re struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm, please contact the
Christmas may be the hap-happiest time of the year, but it can also be the saddest. Tune in for this brief look at 12 things you can do this holiday season to help you stay grounded, focus on what matters, and enjoy Christmas even in the midst of pain.
On the 1st Day of Christmas – Let Go of Expectations
We all have an idea in our mind about “how” Christmas ought to look. We’ve all seen the magazines and Hallmark movies. We know there ought to be decorations galore, fresh baked cookies piled high, and perfectly wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree. But the simple truth is, that’s just not realistic. And if that is someone’s reality, they are definitely the exception to the rule.
Most of us just don’t have the time, money, or energy to have that kind of idyllic vision of Christmas, but somehow we still manage to be disappointed when we don’t deliver the kind of holiday glow we envision.
This year, let it go. Especially if you’re in a new season due to the death of a loved one, a recent divorce, a newly empty nest, or any of the other hundred things that might have you feeling anything but merry and bright. It just doesn’t have to look the way you think it “should.” Do what you can – and want – and know that it will be enough.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas – Meditate on Scripture
Read John 1:1-9 and reflect on what it means that Jesus came as a light into this world. What about the world was dark? Why did we need light? What kind of light did He provide? What is the quality of His light? And finally, how does His light influence your grief or pain?
On the 3rd Day of Christmas – Set Boundaries
“No” isn’t a word any of us like to hear, and quite honestly it’s a word most of us have a hard time saying. But it’s time to work out your “no” muscles.
Only you can determine what is actually reasonable for you to do this holiday season. Maybe hosting everyone you’ve ever known feels overwhelming this year. Maybe baking cookies with your favorite 5-year old exhausts you before you even get out the first mixing bowl.
Figure out what will drain and deplete you and then say no to it.
I promise everyone will survive, as much of a shock to the system it may be to hear you say it. Who knows? It might even encourage someone else to step into a role that they’re quite gifted and enthusiastic about. Or not…and that’s okay, too.
On the 4th Day of Christmas – Write Down Your To-Do List
But don’t stop there.
Write down everything you want to accomplish this holiday season. Put up lights, trim the tree, bake all the cookies, make snow angels, feed the homeless, start a diet, wrap the presents…
You know the list. It’s a mile long and just seems to grow.
Once everything is written down, I want you to evaluate it and cross off 3 things.
There. You’re done. You don’t have to do those 3 things. Give yourself permission to let them go. Ask someone else to fill in for you if it’s something that MUST be accomplished, otherwise…your list is now a little bit lighter and Christmas will still be just fine.
On the 5th Day of Christmas – Turn Off Social Media
Pinterest. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. TURN THEM OFF.
For one day this holiday season, just do it. Stop comparing your experience with everyone else. I promise they are also having anxiety, stress, sadness, and feelings of isolation and inadequacy. They might be hiding it behind a filter, but it’s there.
Today, don’t get caught up in the madness. Turn it off and just enjoy where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing without turning it into a social event for the world to see.
Likewise, when you do look at social media this holiday, remember that the people you’re viewing are only giving you what they want you to see. It’s only a piece of the bigger picture.
On the 6th Day of Christmas – Find Ways to Serve Others
One of the best, and quickest, ways to get out of an emotional funk is by serving other people.
It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a fact. When we take our eyes off our own troubles, as real and as big as they may be, and we serve people around us, we recognize that we truly aren’t alone in our suffering. It turns out, everyone has pain. By working to encourage another person, whether it’s through charitable work or by simply opening a door for someone, we see humanity all around us and realize that we’re all in this together.
This won’t solve all your problems. It might not even dull the ache for very long, but it will take you outside of yourself for just a moment and maybe in that moment you’ll see there is room for hope.
On the 7th Day of Christmas – Light A Candle
Find yourself a quiet little corner of the world and light a candle. Then, reflect back on the passage in John 1:1-9. You’ve had a few days now…how have your answers changed? Are you beginning to feel The Light stir inside your heart?
On the 8th Day of Christmas – Allow Yourself to Be and Feel
Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of grief, it seems impossible to let out emotions out. Laughing feels disrespectful to the enormity of our pain and crying feels so useless and unproductive.
But the truth is, God has given us our emotions. They are a good thing. Today, just let yourself feel.
If there’s something that tickles your funny bone, go ahead and laugh! Laughter really is great medicine for the soul. But maybe you just can’t take another Christmas carol and the sight of others with their joy and glee is sapping you of any energy you have left. That’s okay.
Just be there with your emotions. You’re not going to let them control you or take over your life. You’re going to honor them today by feeling them and acknowledging them and letting them co-exist with you.
On the 9th Day of Christmas – Journal Your Gratitude
Even in our darkest days, there are still things to be thankful for. They may be hard to find, but I want you to dig deep and find 3 things you are thankful for. Write them down and write down why you’re thankful.
It seems like it’s good enough to just do this in your head, after all, it’s not like anyone’s going to be checking your work, but you will benefit more by actually taking the time to write them down.
And hey, if you get done with that and want to keep writing whatever is on your heart, go for it!
On the 10th Day of Christmas – Take a Walk in Nature
Now, for you city folk, this might be a bit harder. But…find somewhere you can go today that is as far away from the noise and the hustle and bustle.
Then close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just listen.
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you right now?
Take some time to get quiet and see the trees and birds and leaves. Really look at nature. Examine the details. What do they tell you about God?
On the 11th Day of Christmas – Create a New Tradition
A new season in life often means we’re leaving behind something that we valued and grew accustomed to. Things are different now. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bad.
This year, find something new to incorporate into your celebration. Maybe it’s as simple as driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or maybe it’s serving in a shelter for abused women. You could do something fun and silly like eat only desserts for an entire day or have a crafting day.
Whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and start doing it this year!
On the 12th Day of Christmas – Take A Nap!
Whatever emotional roller coaster you’ve been on the past few days, weeks, months, or years, emotions are exhausting! Even laughter leaves us all tuckered out.
So today, find a cozy corner with your favorite blanket and let your eyes and soul rest.
You’ve done a really big thing: you’ve made it through what’s arguably the hardest holiday season. You’ve faced your emotions and felt them, you’ve worked on managing your expectations, you’ve tuned out toxic (albeit addictive) social media…You’ve done a lot.
You deserve a rest.
May God bless you this holiday. Merry Christmas, friends!
Matt and I sat down and compiled a list of 10 things we think qualify as marital self-care. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we believe it covers some of the most important (and often overlooked) ways you can nurture your marriage and your spouse. Let’s face it, we could all use a little more tenderness in our lives and who better to give it than your spouse?
Here’s our first ever Top Ten List:
Date Night– This goes without saying, right? Dating your spouse is super important, especially if you have children who you’re also trying to raise. I mean honestly, kids are pretty attention-seeking and if we’re not careful they will easily pull focus. But your relationship deserves the time and attention it got back when you were trying to impress each other.
It also goes without saying that most couples can’t do a once-a-week date because that can cost a TON of money! So find creative solutions: go for walks, take long drives on roads you’ve never explored, have a picnic, light some candles and take a soak in the tub, give massages. Now, if you have kids, you’re going to have to get even more creative…or bold. Don’t be afraid to ask another couple if they’d be willing to swap kids once a month. That way you both benefit from a night (or at least a few hours) free of kids without the expense.
Find ‘Hidden Moments’ – This goes along with the first suggestion. You’re not always going to have a lot of time to enjoy each other’s company, so use the time you’ve got. Maybe it’s just a quick changing of the guard as you pass by each other on your way to and fro. Take a minute to exchange a meaningful moment. Check in with each other.
Maybe you have a little bit of downtime while the baby is asleep. Go ahead and take a nap also, but do it together. Pack the kids up and head to McDonald’s. While they play, enjoy a Coke and have a conversation. Even if it’s in fits and starts, it’s better than nothing. Or do like we do…our kids are older but our daughter still isn’t driving herself and we’ve had some moments sitting in the car waiting at the pick-up line at school or while she’s in dance class.
These aren’t the moments that will likely be full of great memories, but they are the moments that remind you both that your marriage is valuable and worth putting effort into.
Pray for Each Other– It’s really such an easy thing to do, but how often do you we simply forget to pray for the person that matters most? When was the last time you asked your spouse, “How can I pray for you today?” Those few words show your mate that what’s important to them is important to you, too. They speak volumes. Ask this question at least once a week. (Note to Self: Be sure to ask Matt how I can pray for him this week….)
Plan A Future Together – Whether it’s figuring out what you want to do for your next date, planning your dream vacation, plotting your next move or talking about the career you’d like to step into, planning for future events together keeps your eyes out ahead of you.
It’s easy to get consumed with the day-to-day and only focus on the tasks (or children) that are right in front of you. But you are more than the next crisis your face. You have hopes and dreams and big ideas and so does your spouse. Celebrate those together by talking about something that’s coming up or something you’d like to see in the future. It will help stoke the fires that drive your passion toward a common goal and towards one another.
Share Your Calendar– It’s not a glamorous suggestion, but just checking in with each other and sharing what’s on your calendar can keep you casually informed about any number of things. It’s great to be able to glance at the calendar and see what big events are looming because it reminds us how to pray for one another but it also can be an indicator as to why your favorite person in the whole world has turned into a monster. If your work presentation that’s happening on Thursday is written on the calendar, it just might help your spouse understand why you’re a little on edge.
Pick Up the Slack When Your Spouse is Weak – There are going to be those days (and weeks and months) when your spouse just isn’t going to be able to do all the things you’ve grown accustomed to them doing. You’ll have those days, too. And when they happen, nothing feels better than knowing that your spouse has your back and is willing to step in and do the dishes or run the carpool or cook dinner. Especially when those things are done without expectation or guilt trips. Nobody needs that foolishness.
If your spouse is sick, help out. If your spouse is depressed, let them rest. If your spouse is going completely postal because they’re sick and tired of being the only person in the entire house who seems to know how to wash a dish and put it in the dishwasher….wait, I’m sorry. I think I started to wander….
Find A Mutual Hobby or Interest – We really like to watch TV together. It’s a great chance for us to escape for a little bit then come back to reality with some funny one-liners from whatever show we just watched. We could repeat show and movie lines all day long and just giggle. It’s our jam. We also really like playing Pathfinder together with a group of friends. We get to pretend to be heroes doing brave and amazing feats. Then we talk about the shenanigans our characters got up to until we play again. It’s how we unwind.
Those things might not interest you at all. But what about hiking? Or beekeeping? Or going to antique stores? Video games?
Whatever you both enjoy, jump in and do it together. If you haven’t found your thing yet, keep looking. Maybe try cooking or gardening. The point is, find “your” thing and then make time to enjoy it. The bonding that can happen in these moments is worth its weight in gold. I honestly believe that one of the reasons our marriage has survived through all the garbage is because we shared so many common interests and that kept our friendship alive.
Compliment One Another – This shouldn’t be that hard, but for some it truly is. Some people just have a hard time remembering to say out loud the things that are in their heart while others simply can’t find anything worth complimenting in their spouse anymore.
If that’s you in that latter group, dig deep. There was something in your spouse that initially drew you in. See if you can find it. If you can’t, look for something else. Anything else.
The fact is, words have power. When we receive compliments, it bolsters us. It strengthens our confidence. It encourages us to do more of the same. Words of praise can soften the hearts of both those who give it and those who receive it. Compliment with sincerity and do it often.
Have Meaningful Physical Touch – It doesn’t have to turn in to sex, but take time to hug and kiss and hold hands and give massages. These little displays of affection say everything without saying a word. You don’t have to put on a show in front of others, but simply hugging your spouse for a good 2 minutes will do amazing things for your emotional well-being and theirs.
Have Sex – Yep. Just do it.
Sometimes couples have vastly different sex-drives. That’s not uncommon but it’s also not an excuse. When we said “I do” we committed to loving our spouse and putting their needs above our own. We promised that what was ours was also theirs. That includes our body.
It’s important to be attuned to your spouse’s sexual needs. Even if you’re not in the mood, you may just need to do what you can to get there because it’s been 3 months and your spouse is starting to look a little green around the gills.
The fact is, you are a gift to your spouse. You are the gift that keeps on giving.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you have to get your funk on every single day, but it does mean that you need to do your part to show up for your spouse in order to show them that their needs are important to you.
Have some conversations. Find out what’s best for you as a couple. Work together to find a compromise and then enjoy your time together. This kind of physical intimacy is unique and wonderful and a beautiful celebration of your love and commitment to one another. Relish it.
Listen, that was a LOT! The bottom line is this: if you are married, you are in it for the long haul. Wouldn’t it be better to do what you can to nurture your marriage and keep that spark alive rather than watch it burn out, having wasted time and energy on someone you “fell out of love” with?
You don’t fall out love. You let love go. You give up on love. The fact is, marriage is really, really hard. It takes courage and tenacity and dedication and sacrifice and a thousand other things. You never get to a point when you can simply coast.
If you took the next 2 months or so and focused on one of these tips at a time, adding a new one every week, you might just be surprised at how your attitude and heart have changed. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?
Let’s face it: as much as people love watching holiday Hallmark movies, they leave us longing for more in our own lives. More family. More laughter. More kisses under the mistletoe and more snow on the ground.
Meanwhile, our reality often looks quite a bit duller when compared to this idealized version we see on our screens. In real life, we have dirty dishes stacked up high, kids screaming in the background, someone passed out on the couch due to overindulgence of one sort or another. All we really want to do is lock ourselves in the bathroom and have a good cry.
Because the holidays are hard. Sometimes, they’re really hard.
Whatever we hope for during this season seldom comes to fruition. Instead, we end up stressed out and feeling empty and dissatisfied, or worse, completely hopeless.
Join us this week as Matt and I share some of our thoughts for self-care during the holidays that might bring you a new sense of peace and joy.
In this episode, we talk about being mindful of what we deserve vs. what we’ve been given, taking our desires and cares to God, and practical ideas for relieving stressful or awkward situations. We also talk about practicing kindness towards others as well as ourselves.