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December Giving To Anyone with a Chronic or Mental Illness


If you are not familiar with an advent calendar, it is a calendar that starts on December 1st and ends on December 25th (Christmas). When I was growing up, we had a felt advent calendar in our living room and the first one to wake up in the morning, removed, the little piece of felt and a picture (like a star, or poinsettia and the day’s date became visible). When my niece and nephew were little, I used to buy them the same type of calendar at Trader Joe’s, and each day they could open the tiny door on the box, and there was a piece of chocolate covering that day’s date. They would eat one piece of chocolate every morning from the 1st to the 25th of December.

Because December and the holidays can be tough on people, especially people with a physical or mental illness, I try to get my husband and me through the season in the best state of mind possible, and one way I do that is to create a twist on the advent calendar every year.

Last year I took twenty-five clothespins and clipped them on a string and hung it across a wall in the living room. I clipped a piece of paper to each pin. On the front of the paper was a number (from 1 to 25) and when my husband opened each piece of paper during December, he found a random act of kindness that he had to complete that day. One day, his act was to open the door for a stranger. Another day it was saying hi to five people he passed on the street. Another day it was leaving a dollar twenty-five in quarters in the laundry room so someone could do a free load of washing.

This year, I am going to take twenty-five envelopes and twenty-five recipe cards. I am going to write an inspirational quote on each of the twenty-five cards, put them in an envelope and number each envelope from 1 to 25. The same idea can be a self-care routine for someone with a chronic physical or mental illness, but instead of inspirational quotes, there can be a five-minute action (some may take more than five minutes) that the person has to complete that day.

Some suggestions for a self-care calendar are: eat one of your favorite foods today, draw a picture, or burn your favorite candle. For someone else it might be, make yourself a cup of tea and stare out the window while you sip it, take a nap, read at least two articles from your favorite magazine, or start a new book. Someone else might like things like, call your best friend, take a social media break, watch an episode of your favorite show, or one of your favorite movies.

There are endless ideas you can use for this gift to your friend or loved one, and the better you know them, the easier it will be for you to come up with ideas for little (or big) things for them to do. If you want to make it even more elaborate, on some days, you might want to include a small gift with the self-care suggestion — for instance, a candle, a book by their favorite author, the latest copy of their favorite magazine. I wouldn’t get carried away though, the beauty of creating this gift is it is in the thought and time spent putting it together. We all know that it is the thought that counts and this gift are thoughts that count (Calendar! Countdown to Christmas!) Okay, I’m better at making holidays special than making puns!