Intentional Living

Ready, Set…Staying Well During the Crazy-Joyous Holiday Season

What is the first thing you feel when you think about the holidays? I’m hoping it is excitement and joy about celebrating and giving thanks for our freedoms, the coming of Christ, and spending time with family and friends. My guess is that either anxiety or fatigue closely follows that feeling. The holidays are great for so many reasons, but they are also exhausting and overwhelming. In trying to be more intentional with my life, I’m also coming to realize that those feelings are a result of two things: my expectations and my choices.

First, any expectations I hold of having a Norman Rockwell picturesque Christmas should be thrown out. I have a blended family with three grown children who are all trying to figure out life and an extended family with a kaleidoscope of personalities that make the holidays a never-ending source of entertainment. Second, I have the power of choice. I can choose not to go overboard with decorations, gift-giving, and cooking. I can prioritize my well-being and still make the holidays memorable.

Dr. Bill Hettler, a co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, developed a wheel of wellness, which includes six dimensions: occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. Over the years, others have added environmental and financial.

When I look at this list, based on my own values and worldview, I ranked my top four as follows with a few ideas of how to accomplish them this holiday season.

Spiritual: Spiritual well-being centers on purpose and meaning. For me, my purpose and meaning stem solely from my faith in Jesus Christ. Spending time reflecting on his gift of grace and mercy during the holiday season should be daily and intentional, through devotions, reading the Word, and prayer.

Emotional: Emotional well-being centers on our feelings and how we navigate them daily, including coping with stress and expressing feelings, both good and bad. The holidays bring extra stressors in the form of increased financial burdens, increased demands on our time, and increased interactions with others. As a Christian, my emotional wellness is directly linked to my faith and my ability to engage in spiritual well-being practices.

Social: Social well-being centers on what sociologists call social capital or our connections and support system. During the holidays, we probably spend an inordinate amount of time with our social connections, creating memories, and enjoying each other’s company. However, the holidays have a way of allowing us to place unrealistic expectations for people’s presence and behavior at these events. It is good to remember that people are just people, even when it is Christmas!

Physical: Physical well-being centers on our need to be physically active and eat a healthy diet. The biggest culprits for waylaying physical well-being during the holidays include gorging ourselves on carbs and sweets, loss of sleep, and inactivity. Remember to enjoy all the splendors of holiday foods but in moderation. Make holiday “work” such as decorating and cleaning a “fun” way to get physical activity. Schedule in some sledding or winter hiking. And, please, don’t stay up waiting for Santa. That’s his job, not yours!

For the remaining dimensions, environmental, intellectual, financial, and occupational, these all get tossed around a bit during the holidays as well. Remember that decorating doesn’t have to be extravagant. I am down to two Christmas decorating totes and one includes a tree. You can create the feeling of the holidays without turning your house upside down and spending days decorating. Set a budget and stick to it. It’s the thought, not the price tag, that counts. Find time to continue to be creative in the ways that fuel your intellectual fires. For me, it’s pulling out Christmas piano pieces and writing Christmas letters. Finally, work can also be busier. For me, I have the end of term grades and I need to prepare for the second semester all during the holidays. I plan ahead and shoot for my best, not perfection.

What are your plans for navigating this year’s holidays stress-free and intentional? We would love to hear from you!

Contributed by Liz Hunt


Hettler, B. (1976). The six dimensions of wellness. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from

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