Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crazy Heart

Several months a go, my husband and I sat down to watch "Crazy Heart," the 2009 musical-drama film starring Jeff Bridges (who went on to win the Academy Award that year for Best Actor) who plays a down-and-out country music singer-songwriter named Bad Blake. Blake tries to turn his life around after beginning a relationship with a young journalist portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. I heart the movie but I especially loved the music. The original music was composed by T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Burton, and Ryan Bingham. Bingham and Burnett received the Academy Award for Best Original Song for co-writing "The Weary Kind," which Bingham also performed.

I have since downloaded "The Weary Kind" on my ipod and the soulful and haunting lyrics move me to tears every time. And although I'm sure the lyrics are all about booze, hard living, and lost dreams, something in it resonates with me. The chorus states:

And this ain't no place for the weary kind
this ain't no place to lose your mind
this ain't no place to fall behind
pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

So although I've had a particularly rough end to the year with lots of heart palpitations, anxiety, fatigue, and stress, my soul tells me to "pick up my crazy heart and give it one more try."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"When My Heart Finds Christmas"

Harry Connick, Jr. croons this song, "When My Heart Finds Christmas" in his first Christmas album titled by the same name.

I don't know about you but when my heart finds Christmas it does a little palpitation dance. The hustle and the bustle of the season (God forgive me) makes me sort of dread the Christmas season. December and the even more bleak month of January are often hard months for me. And I know I'm not alone. Numerous studies as well as anecdotal evidence from distress centers and crisis workers confirm that there is an increase in both the numbers and severity of calls by depressed and anxious individuals during the holiday season.

The holiday season is often a period of frenetic activity, a time when people are trying to juggle work, an increase in social obligations, shopping, decorating, wrapping, entertaining and staying on budget. All this leads to a rise in both physical and emotional stress. It is also often a time for reflection. A time when others look back and see the losses they incurred--loss of a loved one through death, divorce or separation, loss of a job, or even loss of familiar social environment.

How can we manage the stresses of the season? I found an online article on wikiHow, and although its a bit long-winded, I think it has some good tips on how to beat the holiday blues. And whatever you do this Christmas season, don't start a major kitchen renovation in the middle of Dec. like we're doing this year. When you have to contemplate whether or not to get a tree because you're worried about the remodeling dust, you know you picked the wrong time of year to do it.

How to Sidestep Depression/Anxiety During the Holidays

1) Start early. As the adage “The early bird catches the worm" counsels, getting a head start on your holiday preparations can save you a lot of headaches later on. Gather your family members and quiz them on their favorite foods. Compile a list of your favorite meals, then select the ones that combine the best. Who ever said you can’t have spaghetti for a holiday meal? Do what works for yourself and your family. Reaching a compromise and an agreement early on takes the stress out of last-minute meal planning.

2) Shop ahead. If you have a mile-long list of people to gift this year, consider buying in bulk. Forget buying an individual gift for all your child’s preschool pals. Go to a warehouse which sells things in large quantities and earmark those items for larger groups.

3)** Remember the reason for the season. If you come from a Christian background, remind your children that Christmas is not about Santa Claus alone, but about celebrating Jesus’s birthday. We give and receive gifts as a reminder of his importance in our lives.

4) Manage your children's expectations. It will help prevent an embarrassing outburst on Christmas morning in front of Aunt Sarah when your child fails to get his favorite toy.

5) Make a mailing list. Use your Excel computer application, if you have one, to manage your addresses. Have your children help dig through old Christmas cards to find addresses of long lost friends and relatives. Allow your children to cut up the old Christmas cards to make new ones of their own.

6) Use an Advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In order to help children deal with the anxiety of waiting, wrap little treats for the child to open each day after the beginning of Advent, or use a regluar calendar and put a special sticker on each day as it begins.

7) Get exercise. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, light is a precious commodity. Be sure to get out during your lunch break for a bit of sun exposure. Even on cloudy days, it can revive your spirit and give you the oxygen you require. Shovel snow if it applies to you. (HAAAAAAAA if you live in Texas like I do)

8) Get enough sleep. Have you noticed that when the days are shorter your need for sleep increases? It is a natural response. In a way, our bodies shut down. Honoring your need for rest is as important as ever.

9) Eat vitamin-enriched food. If the sun is weaker in your area, your daily dose of vitamins needs to come from your food intake. Take vitamins and drink fruit tea and lemon to stave off the common cold.

10) Communicate with your partner. Oftentimes, admitting you feel blue is all you need to reach acceptance that things aren’t always perfect.

11) Take time to celebrate with friends, or catch up with people you may not see often. A phone call to distant relatives or friends will brighten both your days.

12) Volunteer in your neighborhood. Helping others often gives a boost to your own spirit, and is a good way to meet new people and build new friendships. Is there a canned food drive? What about gift wrapping for a charity? Maybe a soup kitchen?

13) Celebrate the winter solstice. Mark off the days on your calendar to encourage yourself that a new beginning is right around the corner. Gather with friends to honor this age-old rite of passage into the season of renewal.

14)The winter solstice also marks the fewest number of daylight hours, and that can make getting out of bed difficult in the mornings. To create your own artificial "sunrise" in an otherwise dark bedroom, use a multi-light lamp hooked up to timer. There are other ways to Brighten-up-a-Dark-Room too.

**Something I would like to add to step 3. There is a wonderful movement going on called the Advent Conspiracy. The concept behind this movement is to recreate Christmas whereby we Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. Check it out if you ever have an empty feeling of missed purpose during Christmas.