It is that time of year again…..Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now 2019 is staring at us! So much hustle and bustle and stress. We are all bombarded by pressures to cook large meals, bake cookies, attend all the parties and holiday activities, decorate our homes, and purchase and give the perfect gift for everyone including donations to charities. Of course, we also are expected to maintain daily functioning of our lives such as working, caring for family, and the all too familiar paying the mounting bills. If this all seems overwhelming, well, it is! Our lives are busy during “normal” times of the year let alone a time of the year that has so many celebrated holidays in a 2-month time period. Please don’t get me wrong- I love all the festivities and excitement of this time of the year, but failure to set boundaries and limitations will lead to burnout and wishing the holidays would just be over instead of celebrating the joys of the season with our friends and loved ones.
We cannot forget that this time of the year is also very hard and challenging for those who are not feeling the excitement of the season whether it is due to struggling with addiction, mental health symptoms, incarceration, financial strains, or grief and loss. It is hard to be cheery when such sadness and stress is affecting us so deeply. Often people will say “this is a wonderful time of the year, you should be happy”. True, it is a wonderful time of the year, but it also brings out much sadness and anxiety. For those of us who are facing our first or umpteenth holiday without our loved ones for whatever reason, we are faced with the question, “how do I get through the holidays?” Sadly, there is not an answer to that question. Many people offer platitudes such as “your loved one would want you happy” or “they are in a better place”. Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact of the sadness and loss facing us. I have learned through the years that we honor those we’ve lost by continuing some traditions and creating new ones. We still grieve and miss our loved ones, but we can also again enjoy the holidays. The holidays will never be the same, but we will learn to “survive” the holidays.
There is one major way to get through the holidays and every other day of our lives-good self-care! Sounds simple, right? If it was only as simple as it sounds, then we would all be “experts” at good self-care. What is good self-care? That is the million dollar question. I am sure many of us have some ideas about what good self-care is such as eating healthy and balanced meals and getting enough sleep. That certainly is a part of good self-care. However, self-care encompasses several aspects of our lives including spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Now this adds some depth to what good self-care is. I know, I am repeating “good self-care” but perhaps if it is said enough, all of us, including myself, will pay more attention to it and focus on it more. We must have good self-care to live fulfilling lives and to be able to care for others. We must gain a better understanding of how to take care of ourselves. Some suggestions include the following:
1. Just say no: Yes, it sounds like the anti-drug commercials in the 1980’s ,but it is true. It is ok to say no, and we should do so more often. For example, it is Saturday evening and a friend calls and asks you to help them move on Sunday, I am sure many of us would want to help despite being tired or having other plans. If we say yes, we face resentments and frustrations of having to change our plans at last minute. To say no often leads to feelings of guilt. Why do we feel guilty for saying no? Good question and the answer is, there is no reason to feel guilty for saying no when that is what we want to say! In case you forgot, we also wrote about saying no in this blog post.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others: Again, easier said than done! We all have compared ourselves to others and have been groomed to do so in all areas of our lives….salary, education, relationship status, etc. So instead of comparing ourselves with others, focus instead on our growth and positive changes that we have made within ourselves.
3. Make good self-care activities a priority daily: Practicing good self-care is not something you do once a week or once a month as a reward for hard work. Rather, it is a must to do daily. Some examples include taking a lunch break away from work, eat ing balanced meals, and getting enough fulfilling sleep each day.
I am challenging each and everyone of us to 14 days of self-care activities and I encourage you to continue to do them well past 14 days! Some suggestions include:
Day 1: Look in the mirror and say 10 things you like about yourself. This may be challenging at first but keep practicing and it will become easier to do.
Day 2: Go to the zoo. Enjoy nature and seeing the awe of children.
Day 3: Read a book or at least a chapter of a book. Chicken Soup for the SoulBooks are great for those who do not like to read long books but prefer stories and as a bonus, they are very warming and motivating.
Day 4: Stay off all social media…yes you can do it and I am sure you will enjoy it more than you realize.
Day 5: Make a snow angel and if there isn’t snow, find a puddle and jump in it. Let your inner child out.
Day 6: Call a friend that you haven’t talked to in a long time and I mean call, not text or email. We have gotten too far away from direct contact.
Day 7: Listen to soothing music. I love to listen to Orla Fallon or Chicago, but you will find what you like best.
Day 8: Find and do a new hobby. Perhaps arranging flowers is something you will enjoy or maybe a game of flag football is more your style but the point is, just do it!
Day 9: Sit still, even for 15 minutes and focus on nothing but breathing in and out.
Day 10: Laugh! Whatever you need to do to get a good laugh, do it. Laughter is so very therapeutic!
Day 11: Cuddle with your pet. Ok, some of us do this daily which is great, so for those of us who do this routinely, add an additional 30 minutes of doing so. Nothing quite as calming as that of a purr of a cat, at least to me that is.
Day 12: Do some volunteer work. Helping others in need and seeing their joy is one of the most rewarding things in life.
Day 13: Dress up to just dress up and to feel good.
Day 14: Take time for a long soothing shower or bath. It alleviates aches and is quiet time. Sing in the shower if you choose, but just do it!
What are some of your self-care activities? We would love to hear your ideas and experiences.