It’s wonderful to get wrapped up in the magic of this season, which brings us excitement, joy and perhaps most appreciably this year—hope. But intellectually, we’ve long known that the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” And this year, which has been out-of-control for all of us, the holidays may be wildly challenging for many.

After all, in 2020 we’ve already had to cope with feelings of loneliness, fear, anger and confusion due to the pandemic. It’s diminished our sense of wellbeing and happiness. Now we can’t celebrate in person with family and friends; our emotional reserves are stretched thin; and the news is still concerning. Science says things may get worse before they get better, even though a solution is in sight. So comfort and joy are harder to find at the moment, which makes them all the more valuable.

Like many of you, I’ve had a rough year too. But I’m surprised to find that it’s made me stronger and more positive about the future than ever before. I lost my remarkable mother, Arlene, in April; had hip surgery in October; and wrestled with, and recovered from, COVID-19 in November. Ultimately, these challenges have been transformative by helping me focus on hope, embrace the benefits of solitude, learn new ways of giving and find a renewed sense of inner tranquility.

As a wellness advocate and consultant, the ordeals of this year have helped me devise strategies to get through these tests. Appreciation is one, and personally I’m more grateful than ever for my family and friends. But finding balance between solitude and companionship has been effective as well. I have renewed respect for solitude and the benefits it yields, and the companionship that comes from being present and caring in every interaction we have.

Given these thoughts, I want to thank all of you who have been present in my life. May you find excitement, joy, peace and love in the coming year. And to help you do so, see my strategies below for handling immediate holiday stress, longstanding crisis fatigue, balancing companionship and solitude and building a more connected world.

As poet Leonard Cohen advised in “Anthem,” we must forget perfect offerings and “ring the bells that still can ring.” Only this way can we let the light in, renew ourselves and create a world where everyone belongs.

Here’s to hope, healing and some hearty bell-ringing in the new year!

With Love,


Feeling Holi-dazed? Top 5 Mind-Body Strategies

The holidays are far from a season of joy for 88% of Americans. A study conducted by OnePoll last December—months before COVID-19 came to our shores—found the opposite to be true: The holidays are often a season of stress, anxiety and depression. That makes our health even more vulnerable right now, yet the pandemic has limited the opportunities we have to pursue activities that foster health and wellness. To reduce holiday stress, Bizwomen asked me to give them my top five mind-body strategies. See the article here and get more direction on the practices here. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself using them long after the holidays are past!

Is Crisis Fatigue Setting In? It’s Time to Learn How to Breathe Properly

Crisis fatigue—a mixture of exhaustion, rage, despair and grief—has become a public health concern. A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found mental health problems have been a greater challenge for Americans than people in other wealthy nations, while a new International Committee of the Red Cross study concluded the pandemic is causing a global mental health crisis. While there are plenty of great strategies to help alleviate anxiety, stress and depression, one in particular—breathing—is easy, immediate, effective and economical. Read More about how to breathe properly in my latest column in AGEIST magazine.

Om in the military? Yes!

Over the past few years, veterans have been practicing yoga and meditation to heal both physical and emotional wounds from active duty. Studies show that regular practice of yoga and meditation has helped reduce emotional reactivity, increase self-regulation, help with chronic pains, traumas, depression and PTSD. Check out the extraordinary program, iRest, created by my friend and colleague, Richard Miller, world-renowned author and yogic scholar.

Keep on Connecting

Connections with others are key to human society. Our biological programming drives us to gather in groups; doing so is essential to our physical and emotional health. It reduces stress, promotes healthier behaviors, gives us a greater sense of purpose and promotes healing when we are sick. In short, social interaction adds years to our lives. In his fascinating book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” Vivek H. Murthy, MD, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, reveals the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, the social power of community and why we can and must build a connected world. But how to keep social interactions strong during a pandemic? Full disclosure: It takes a little work, as you’ll see from this WesternUnion “listicle” —but it’s definitely worth the work when you factor in all the benefits you’ll reap.

The Merits of Solitude

“Why are we reading if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard asked in her award-winning 1989 book “The Writing Life.” Another award-winning author, Fenton Johnson, shows that being alone is much different than loneliness in his latest tome, “At The Center Of All Beauty: Solitude And The Creative Life.” In fact, it’s the direct opposite, the New York Times review of the book concludes. What could be a more apt work to read than this as we strive for a balance between solitude and connection?

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Bija Bennett brings real-time restoration to all audiences

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