Surviving the Holidays

Dec 12, 2018 | Fitness Retreats

My late husband died, two weeks before my daughters third birthday, a month and a half before Thanksgiving, and just a little over three months before Christmas. To say it was a brutal first holiday season is the understatement of the century.

There is no right or wrong way to tackle the holidays when you are struggling, but there are a few things you can do to help you make the days a little easy to handle. Each of these tips can be used to help you process a challenging time in your life with more strength, grace, and joy. Every single day we are presented with options, the small choices you make will define your future reality.


Every single day, break a sweat or at least go for a walk. The power for your body, your brain, and your mood is undeniable. When you are struggling through the hardest moments of your life it’s no longer about the size or the look of your body; it becomes about the quality of your life. Fitness is a catalyst for so much more than fat loss. Fitness is a catalyst for a better life. Look for it to strengthen your resolve and bring fire to your future.


Eastern cultures have known all along, just how powerful mindfulness is when we struggle with grief or stress. Just the simple act of deep breathing can help to regulate your parasympathetic nervous system and regulate anxiety and depression. It’s not a cure-all, nothing is, but it sure can make a big difference when you are struggling. Dedicate just five minutes a day to deep breathing and meditation and watch your day change for the better.


Two weeks after my late husband passed, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I was still grateful for in my life. At first, I couldn’t think of one good thing, but I made myself write down the little stuff, like my eyesight and my legs, and shortly after, the floodgates opened, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s the power of being thankful; it brings to your attention all the things you have to be happy about, even when times are tough.


Be You
Don’t pretend to be somewhere emotionally that you aren’t. Allow yourself the grace to not be “strong” or “inspirational” but instead be true to where you are in the moment. We all have seasons of good and bad, and it’s okay to acknowledge your pain, promise me you won’t get stuck there. Strive to do one or two positive things a day to move your life forward, all while allowing yourself the time to grieve and process your pain.


Choose to Move Forward
You will never hear me say the words “move on” because when you experience life-changing grief, you have no choice but to move on from the moment it happens. That being said, we never really “move on” but rather we “move forward.” To anyone who has experienced grief they understand the huge difference in just two little words. Every single day, choose to take one or two small baby steps forward in your life. If you make enough small steps day after day, week after week, year after year, you will see that in time, you are in an entirely new and better place.


You define you, and you are still here for a reason.

I want you to live.

Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is an author for HarperCollins, speaker, fitness coach, mother and a re-married widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009, she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate VP job to become a fitness coach. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets.

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