Giving from the Heart is Less Stress and More Meaning

At this time of the year, it is easy to get wrapped up in buy, buy, buy.  And that is neither smart nor economical.  Through the years, the gifts that have had the most meaning to my loved ones have always been gifts from the heart.  So what does that mean?  What does giving from the heart look like?

Really thinking about the person you are giving to and studying what they love, what they care about, what they are excited about.  Gifts should be about the recipient, not about what you think the recipient  should have.

Ex: my husband’s brother has spent years restoring an old Ford truck. He loves it. He spent hours working on it.  So Spencer managed to find an original owner’s manual to that truck on line.  His brother loved it and appreciated the thought behind it.

Understanding the needs of the person you are gifting. If they are homegrown, down-to-earth, and organic in nature, they probably will not like the latest slick toy.  On the other hand, if they have been playing computer games all their lives and are thrilled with new technology, that might make the perfect gift.

Handmade is always appreciated.  Even if you did not make it by hand.  Commissioning an afghan in someone’s favorite colors is exactly what my sister-in-law did for me and I so appreciated the thoughtfulness.  She helped an older woman who needed money and then blessed me with a sweet gift.

Food from your kitchen is almost always a hit (provided it’s not fruitcake!) To make it more memorable, attach a special ornament to the delicious offering.

Shared interests make great gifts. I am a kitty person, so I always love cat-related stories, stuffed animals that are cats, etc.  I also love self-help books, so my friends sometimes give me those.  If you share an interest with someone, reflect that in the gift.

The gift of your time and care can mean everything.  Sometimes, especially for seniors, the most important gift you can give is to spend quality time with someone and give them your undivided attention.  In this hustle and bustle world, that is very rare.  Having tea together and laughing and chatting can be the best gift of all.

The gift of lifting burdens can be invaluable. It seems in my life that over the past few years, more and more people have cancer.  So if I can help by cleaning their house, making them meals, spending time with them at chemo, helping them laugh(which is indeed the best medicine,) then I know I am on track.   One friend has a long list ofhouse projects and she is a single woman.  My husband gave her two hours of “honey-do” time this year for her present. She was delighted.

Whatever you do, give some thought to each person’s needs and dreams instead of just buying them the latest hot new thing.  They will love you for it and know that you love them. And isn’t that what the season is all about, anyway?

Eating the Right Food for Stress Management

Believe it or not , there  are several foods which can help you manage your stress , cut your cortisol levels and even handle depression.

walnuts• Eat walnuts to treat depressionHarvard Science Review published a study by McClean Behavioral Genetics Laboratory citing that walnuts are powerful antidepressants! If you don’t like walnuts, try molasses or sugar beets instead.  They have the same benefits. Always consult your doctor first. 1

Honey is very good for you, since it is a natural antibacterial agent.  Many  countries use it medicinally to treat burns and wounds, and in the United States, it has been proven to be effective in treating stress, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Recent reports of honey coupled with cinnamon every day show an improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 2

Eat 5-8 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones.  They’re full of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.  Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure and help produce collagen, which keeps skin firm. Blackberries have more than double the amounts of vitamin C, calcium and magnesium than blueberries.  Both boost your memory and are great for you! Choose organic ones to prevent pesticide ingestion.

Eat pistachio nuts to cut inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and improve your body’s response to stress.  Just 1.5 ounces of pistachios provides a boost of energy and can slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the body when eaten together.  One reason pistachios are so good for you is that they have large amounts of potassium.

Have a cup of tea, especially green or white tea, several times a day.  Drinking tea reduces stress and cortisol levels. Japanese women who drink lots of green tea live longer.3 Tea improves your concentration and prevents bone loss.  A University of London study states one cup of tea can significantly reduce anxiety levels after suffering an upset.4

Whatever you eat this holiday season, be mindful.  Instead of those Christmas cookies, have an apple instead.  Watch empty carb intake, and instead eat whole grains, which boost seratonin levels “the feel good chemical”.  And when you are really craving sweets, work out instead.

1. “Eat your way happy and healthy,” Woman’s World, May 5, 2008, p.12

2. Honey: The index of medical and scientific journals at the National Medical Library in Bethesda, Md.

3. “The Healing Power of Tea,” Ladies Home Journal, Feb. 2009, p.38

4. Alleyne, Richard, “ A cup of tea really can help reduce stress at times of crisis,”,  August 13, 2009