7 ways to prepare your heart and soul during the busy Advent season
By Lisa Lawmaster Hess
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for the concert rehearsals and performances to be over so we can return to some semblance of routine. Waiting for our students to concentrate on something other than Christmas lists. Waiting for winter vacation to arrive so we can finally catch our breath, get some sleep and return to just one to-do list instead of myriad holiday obligations.
Somehow, I don’t think this is the waiting God has in mind for us.
Wondering how to make Advent a little more peaceful and anticipatory? Start by taking care of yourself. Catholic.org describes Advent as “a period of self-preparation.” Though Advent is a season of outreach and anticipation, we’re not meant to neglect ourselves. Truly giving of ourselves requires meeting our own needs so we have the energy and desire to meet the needs of those around us.
If you’re wondering how this is even possible, here are a few suggestions.
- Put yourself on the schedule. Pencil yourself in, even if it’s only for the ten minutes between the time your last student gets on the bus and the time you exit the building to start the after-school rush.
- Make your wish list. If you could actually capture this elusive time for yourself, how would you spend it? Create a grid like the one below where each square contains the amount of time available. Then, when the time arrives, consult the appropriate list so you don’t waste even a moment figuring out what to do. If it’s been so long since you’ve had time to yourself that you don’t even know where to start, keep reading.
- Find a meditation that works for you. This can be a traditional meditation, like those on the Headspace or Simple Habit app, or it can simply be quiet time spent focusing on your breathing, saying a few prayers or a rosary or, if your school and church are close enough, walking to church to light a candle.
- Set aside daily prayer time. Find an Advent or whole-year devotional that speaks to you and spend a few minutes each day immersed in it. Or, perhaps begin each day with one of these prayers with your class. Not sure where to start? Try these readings from catholic.org: http://www.catholic.org/advent/advent.php?id=18.
- Focus on things that bring you peace. Whether it’s reading, singing, cooking or something else entirely, spend some time engaging in your talents. What better way to draw closer to the God who gave those talents to you in the first place?
- Dust off the Advent wreath and break out the candles. More than just a seasonal decoration, an Advent wreath can remind us of the reason for the season every time we walk by.
- Pull out the purple. Do you have a favorite purple sweater, shirt, scarf or tie? Dressing in the color of the season can not only get us in the spirit, but also be a moment-by-moment reminder to engage in heartfelt preparation for the celebration that’s just around the corner.
It’s easy to think of time for ourselves as a luxury, especially when life is busy. And while this season is about doing for others, it also provides many opportunities to draw closer to God. Taking time to quiet our minds and engage in peaceful reflection not only benefits us, but it strengthens us as well, giving us the energy we need to prepare for the arrival of the Christ child and truly enjoy everything the season has to offer. And maybe, just maybe, our attitude of serenity will calm the excited anticipation of our students and encourage them to focus on the reason for the season.
Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary school counselor.