How to Have a Wholly Healthy Holiday


It’s mid-December. Life just got a tad more hectic and will stay that way until the kids go back to school in January.

You kick yourself for not having honoured last year’s vow to be organized earlier. You harp on about the excessive consumerism and the social obligations – loud office parties and stilted conversations with people you only see once a year. There’s cooking and shopping and wrapping and planning. There’ll be food from your naughty list on offer everywhere you turn.

Your belly clenches in anticipation, even as you fear you won’t get it all done, so you run too fast, stay up too late, say yes to more events and volunteering than you know is good for you. You start to feel your life getting away from you; you’re scrambling to keep it all packaged in a manageable bundle. (Writing this, I picture my arms flying through the air, trying to gain control over some invisible chaos.)

How can you get it all done without burning yourself out? How can you actually enjoy the celebrations after all the work?

How can you maintain the spirit of the season without compromising your own spirit?

The hustle and bustle of Christmas tips so easily into stress & overwhelm when there’s no connection. If you’re anything like me, a certain amount of what you do at this time of year comes from outside expectations – your husband and kids’ needs, of course, but also what your sister-in-law or your mother expect of you, office obligations, and maybe a small dose of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’.

When you lose sight of the meaning behind the traditions in favour of trying to do it all, you end up losing sight of yourself in the process.

The other morning I headed out the door for an early appointment, into the soundless dark of that first deep snowfall. Because I’d taken on an extra contract recently, my time for all the Christmas necessities became suddenly limited and I felt that panic welling in me by the minute. My thoughts threatened to spin out of control as I walked to the bus. There was something about the peace of the day, however, that drew my attention more strongly.

It was one of those mornings when the carpet of snow muffles every sound. The only thing I heard was my breathe, so I settled into it and the way it shifted and vibrated with my steps. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds, sending the bare trees into dramatic relief against the lightening grey. No birds sang nor squirrels chattered – they were still huddled in their cozy nests. Even my usual morning petition to earth and trees for support through my day fell flat as I felt their own energy had settled deeply below the surface.

I heard a voice inside me say, “Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the absolute peace.”

To use traditional Chinese terminology, this is a yin season – we’re approaching the most yin day of the year on the 21st – inward moving, cold, dark, moist, introspective and receiving. Your instinct is to follow that energy –the desire to curl up under a blanket with a book, have more nights in with your family, make pots of soup – that’s you putting yin into action.

Christmas is an affirmation of the return to more yang – outward, hot, light, expansive and giving. A natural celebration of those qualities we so love; they help us connect to the world around us, and traditionally offered survival as people share limited resources for food and heat through the winter. Yet, as we North Americans love to do everything to excess, the holidays are over the top, to the point of frenzy.

The stress of the year comes, in part, from the struggle between the two poles of energy clashing.

This year, in order to maintain your energy, your sanity and your joy through the season, balance those the seasonal extremes regularly.

Connect daily – hourly – with the yin energy of the natural season (of which you are an integral part) to offset the yang of the seasonal holiday.

Here’s how:

  1. Soups, stews and congees – food cooked with water or other liquid – nourish deeply with their easily assimilated nutrients and gentle warmth. Eat one or the other daily. Squash soup, with a hint of curry, apple and coconut is my favourite, like a warm blanket in a bowl. Bonus points for drinking/using bone broth.
  2. Foods that tonify yin include millet, barley, rice (eaten as whole grains, not in flour products); beans, especially black, kidney, mung or green; beets, black- & raspberry, seaweed. Easy on the red meat, sugar/refined carbs and alcohol; remember the gratitude for the bounty along with the indulgence – celebrate conscientiously.
  3. Turn inward daily with quiet practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, put on a fire (or a candle) and get lost in its flames. Give yourself an opportunity to turn off for a few minutes every day. Trust that it will all get done; trust that what gets done is enough.
  4. Take a walk in the early morning or the evening. Let the quiet penetrate you, and notice your limbs soften as the frenzy drops away. Though the earth is frozen, you can still tap into its energy by consciously feeling your feet connect with the snow and pavement at every step – imagine red roots running into your soles, nourishing you with the distant warmth of the core.
  5. Balance the giving with a healthy dose of receiving. We’re good at the first – not so much the second. Practise receiving compliments, an offer of a cup of tea or help in the kitchen. At a recent party, several people commented on how good I looked – after the 2nd or 3rd time, I noticed my shoulders curled in and my chest collapsed even as I thanked them. Open your heart and let the love, the gift, the compliment in. As Dr. Northrup says, it gifts the other person with the joy of having their words and other offers of love accepted. (You can start right now – see below for my present to you.)

What gets you the most stressed out at this time of year? What practices help you stay balanced? When you share in the comments, you open the opportunities for others.

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My Christmas gift to you:

Over the last few years, I’ve found a word to be my touchstone, my intention and my guide for the year. Better than a resolution, it creates a container in which to take action with healthy practices, it creates a filter through which to set my priorities and make decisions, both personal and professional.

On the 21st, the darkest day of the year, I will be posting an audio guide for helping you connect with YOUR word for 2017. Solstice is the perfect time to explore your needs and priorities and set that intention, so that it can come into the light as we head to the new year.

Access will be exclusively for the community in the Whole Health Dinner Party space. Learn more and join here.

Now practise the joy of giving: Share this post with 2 of your friends using any (or all!) of the links below.


Inner Peace as Part of Health

September. Gathering books, starting new activities, buying new clothes.

Like the squirrels around the neighbourhood, I max out on local produce, fill the freezer, get the roof patched, and make sure everyone’s got boots & a coat that fit.

Nothing like the fall to stir up a flurry of activity.

Some days I don’t know what to do first.

It adds to the stress load. But it also means I can hunker down and ride smoothly through winter.

Any transition’s like that.

How can you keep it all going without falling apart?

Create inner peace.

When you address daily well-being as part of your spiritual practice – your ability to stay connected to your purpose and act from what’s true to you – everything you do deepens your connection to self and opens space for the Divine.

In this case, maintaining a clear inner atmosphere, a positive mindset, work wonders for your entire life and health.

In August, we had to replace the basement floor after a flood, which meant that all the stuff from down there got moved upstairs. The big stuff went into storage, and some fit in the garage, but then every other room in the house acquired boxes and odd bits of what-not.

If there’s one thing that stresses me out, it’s clutter.

I’m one of those people who need to wash the dishes and clear the counter before I cook. I need to put away the clothes once the laundry’s done. So, having our already small rooms packed with more stuff added a sense of constriction to my summer.

Now, on top of having the usual back-to-school frenzy, I also have the daunting task of putting it all back in place, plus I’ve been asked to teach a class on relatively short notice. (Did I mention my husband’s away for a month?)

All of it’s great, but thrown onto the To Do list all at once, it feels like a pile of dirty dishes and unfolded laundry threatening to topple on over me.

Mentally, it’s the same. Your mind gets too full of trying to keep it all organized.

If you’re anything like me, you can get so caught up in worry about the details that you

  • Micro-manage (= don’t delegate easily);
  • Lose sleep, either because you stay up too late working on it or because you lie awake trying to figure it all out;
  • Start 12 different projects, then never finish any;
  • Forget your priorities as you get swallowed by the task at hand. The other night I had a dream that I was so busy trying to clear a clog from the vacuum hose, that I didn’t notice the entire house burning down around me;
  • Eat too much sugar to keep you going;
  • Get sick. You see, when stress is high (too much cortisol all the time), your immune system is suppressed while your body’s energy goes to getting you out of “danger”.

Basically, I turn into a crabby bitch with no time for anything or anyone.

It comes down to creating space.

Space in my home.
Space in my mind.
Room to breathe.

And as much as I’d love to be able to wiggle my nose and have it all sorted out this minute, the reality requires small, sustained steps.

The beautiful thing about the mind is it’ll bend & flex to integrate new habits. According to research, it takes anywhere from 24 to 60 days for a new routine to become unconscious habit. Once those pathways are established, though, it means it all happens automatically – without having to think about it!

With more headspace, you give your creativity, your memory and better moods a chance to flourish.

Take these 3 steps every day for a week and notice what happens to your productivity, your stress level, your sleep.

1. Schedule your day.

The most brilliant tool I ever tried since working from home has been a timer. I decide what I need to accomplish in a day, allot each item a set time and stick to it.

Parkinson’s law is the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Without a framework, whatever you do will inevitably take longer. You know, like when you pop into social media for 5 minutes, only to surface an hour and a half later…

Magically, if you set a timer to keep track for you, you’re free to focus on the task at hand. You’ll be amazed how quickly things get done – sometimes with time to spare!

Bonus: Take time to do nothing.

When scheduling your day, be sure to include a break.
Sit in the garden, meditate, journal, take a nap, stare into space, daydream, read a magazine,…
Turn off. Unplug. Just be.

2. Clear your space.

Spend each week focused on one room in your home/office. (Do this in small bites – 15 minutes – for easy digestion.)

Clean a drawer.
Wash a window.
Rearrange the artwork. Set out some fresh flowers.
Give away books you’ve read and gadgets you don’t use.

Let the each room reflect who you are and how you want to feel when you’re in it. Let the outside reflect the inside. Let the outside inspire the inside.

3. Express gratitude.

Whether you prefer to do it in the moment or journal about it before bed, take the time to appreciate food, acts of kindness, people, challenges from your day.

Step back and acknowledge the tidy drawer, the vase of flowers, the wholesome meal.
Express gratitude to others. Express it to yourself. Express it to the Divine.
Honour when you succeed. Be gentle with yourself when you don’t.

Now that you notice what works, commit to repeating it daily for a month or two – the time it takes for your neurons to establish the new pathways.

Give your mind the chance to embrace this calmer approach to stressful times as the norm.

Leave energy for your body to keep up with its own healthy activities.

Offer your inner yearnings a clear path to expand and be heard without the din.

What do you do to keep yourself mentally clear when things are overwhelming? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.


How the Garden Saved my Soul

There’s nothing I love more, on a summer Sunday morning, than to take my cup of herbal tea outside to putter around the garden. Maybe pick some raspberries or today’s lettuce; sometimes just sit and enjoy the peace.

Far from Home & Garden worthy – it’s actually more of a haphazard wilderness – the joy I derive from my garden stems from the direct contact with Nature. No longer a regular church-goer, I get spiritually nourished and receive quiet wisdom when I experience the natural world in my backyard.

I first felt the comforting arms of this connection when my first marriage was falling apart. The teacup in the yard was a way to take a break from the kids (both under 6 at the time), even if they were running about as well. It was a place to go as I processed whatever turmoil was brewing inside me from the relationship.

My frustration and sadness turned into endless hours of weeding, cutting, digging and hauling rocks. It was meditative, it was physical. It was necessary.

PansiesEach time, I’d step back and be amazed at the transformation to the patch I’d been working on that day. Infinitely cheaper than a therapist, the time in my garden cleared my head as I was literally grounded into my own needs, feelings and sense of self.

I’ll keep this brief so we can both spend more time outside. Read more specific life lessons I received from my garden in this MindBodyGreen post from last summer.

This is the path that shared all that nourishment:

Path 1

Looking back, I understand that I wrote it as I was rediscovering my own edges and re-committing to conscious self-care, after years of taking my health (and my self) for granted.

Share your own experiences of rejuvenation from Nature below. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Have a friend who could use the gentle grounding of Nature? Send her this post using any (or all!) of the buttons below.


A Sweet Taste of Inner Peace

LakeI’m writing this from one of the most peaceful places I know.

I’m in the shade on a dock, the breeze ruffling the leaves overhead ever so gently. The lake ripples and twinkles in the sunshine. The loudest sound is the chirp from a chickadee or the buzz of the odd bee. Absolute heaven.

It’s been an upended summer.

My work schedule didn’t work out as I’d hoped, which meant I was often scrambling for last minute child care. Some days, I was so focused on getting parts of my business together that I lost hold of the daily basics: adequate meal planning, soccer practices and birthday parties. (Ok, let’s be honest, some of those things had just slipped through the sieve because I never wrote them down.)

Time out of the city has been hard to plan or totally impromptu. To put flame to the fire, there was a family crisis that compounded my chaos with worry.

Could it be that a lack of any kind of routine or schedule is what had me feeling so chaotic?

And then there are moments like this. Utter peace.

It surrounds me, and yet I feel it deep in my bones. In the expansion of my belly, in the drop of my shoulders, in the ease of my breathe. This sense of peace is available to me at all times because I feel it in my body.

At times like this, when I feel like life is living me, I’m reminded how important it is to make sure I look after myself first and foremost. What some call the airplane theory: put your own oxygen mask on before you attempt to help anyone else.

What can I do to recreate that sensation of inner peace back at home?

I take this moment of tranquility to reassess what it is I need. What will keep me grounded when life doesn’t quite work out the way I hope and anticipate? What routines do I need to have in place so that the daily flow can continue when curve balls come my way? What amount of sleep, which quality of food, and how much time to just chill out with my sweetie?

There it is, an important aspect of self-care we don’t often consider: Routine.

Sounds boring. I know.

But let’s think about it:

  • When you set aside time for the necessary tasks of life, you stop stressing out about them. Rather than worry that there’s a stack of bills on my desk that I  must remember to pay at some point, I take a half hour every Friday morning and look after it. One simple step that opens up time & mental energy.
  • Think about when you were a little girl. Your parents had a structure in place. They set expectations and curfews meant to keep you safe, and you were free to run around and play all day They could trust that you would bike home at sunset, you could trust there’d be a hot meal waiting for you.
  • Look at your own kids. One of my sons is all for being a free spirit and “going with the flow”, but left too much to his own devices and he becomes bored, pacing the house like a caged animal. It never ceased to amaze me, when he was small, that the more firmly I maintained the routines & structure I’d set up, the better behaved he was.
  • The FLY Lady has built her entire business around developing routines. First Love Yourself. Her whole premise is that if you create habits for the little chores that need doing around your house (making the bed, cleaning the toilet, laundry) then they happen without you having to think about it. Habits not only remove the burden from housework: your mind & imagination are then free to expand in any number of creative ways. (Not to mention, you’re equipped to catch the odd curve ball.)
  • Your body is the same way. Sleep cycles, digestive health, hormonal fluctuations all work on a clock. If it knows what to expect when, your body functions more efficiently.

Perhaps I’m no longer in school, but this time of year still has me excited about cleaning off my desk & getting all my notebooks in order. This year, my organizing will include putting absolutely everything onto my calendar.

As business mentor Marie Forleo says, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.”

The thought of a hectic fall schedule can leave me with a huge knot in my belly. But if I sat with my calendar and put a framework around my weeks and days, the knot releases and my heart lifts. I face the fall with a sense of peace and renewed energy!

What’s your “Back to School” plan for yourself? Leave me a reply below and tell me about it.


It’s with this very sense of peace and freedom in mind that I came up with the idea for the first talk in my series… starting next week!

My intention with “Self-Care as a Spiritual Practice” is to set a foundation on which all other aspects of health can be built. It’s designed to relieve the burden of how to go about fixing the big stuff, by establishing a healthy mindset around the daily stuff.

Click here to learn more about the whole series: “Good Health Starts Here: 6 Talks for Women”

Come back for more simple guidance:

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