Look for the Light
By Andrew Ellsworth, M.D.
Depending on where you live, it looks like we may not have a “picture perfect” white Christmas this year. It seems fitting given the many things about 2020 which were not what we imagined, let alone “perfect.”
While the holidays can be a season of happiness and joy, for many they are accompanied by anger and sorrow. Missing loved ones from the past, remembering relationships that soured, thinking of hopes and dreams that never materialized can make customarily joyous Christmas carols sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.
It can be hard to appear festive when inside we feel down. It may be tempting to hold our fears, failures, and bad thoughts to ourselves. Indeed, we may not want to broadcast our problems to the world, however, hiding and suppressing our feelings is not what the doctor recommends. Letting things build up and fester is not a good idea whether it be a boil on our skin or a strong emotion.
If you are feeling low, talk to someone. Call a family member or a friend. If you do not have a particular person in mind, talk to a counselor, your doctor, your pastor, or call 1-800-273-TALK. It can also help to put your thoughts on paper. The point here is to let it out, identify it, talk, or write about it, and disarm it. Do not let dark thoughts overwhelm you and control you.
Exercise can help, too. Moving your body triggers your brain to release endorphins, the brain chemicals that facilitate feeling good. Activity gets your mind off things that cause you to worry and on to a brighter, healthier cycle of thoughts.
Meditation, prayer, or yoga may be helpful. If you are not sure how to meditate, consider watching a how-to video on YouTube. Reach out to a church leader for guidance on prayer. If you’ve never done yoga, contact a local yoga studio or sign up for a class online.
People do care about you. I know there are many caring people in our communities. We see them unselfishly serve others time and time again. But they may need someone to talk to as well. If we all strive to open up to the people around us, we may find that we are all feeling a mix of emotions during the holidays.
Yes, the days are short, and the darkness is long, but it will not last. December 21 marks the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year, after which the days get longer, and light extends the day. This year, on this same day, something called a “Great Conjunction” will occur. The planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear the closest they have been in almost 400 years. To the naked eye, they will look like one, bright star, thus earning the nickname the “Christmas Star.” Years ago, a star guided wise men toward a new hope. We too, can look for the light in and around us, bringing hope to our days ahead.
Andrew Ellsworth, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPB most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.