The weather, family drama, cooking and shopping, hectic travel, and the dark season. When we look at holiday self-care, we recognize just how hard our practice needs to work. But so often, we meet those needs by simply adding more to our schedules. Instead, let’s reimagine holiday self-care as a gentler, less stressful process.
I believe in year-round self-care. In my life, and I’m hoping in yours, it’s an ever-evolving practice that flows with the seasons. For me, self-care is an ever-present opportunity to view myself with compassion and to meet my needs with creativity and empathy.
Self-care is always in season.
But what about those particularly challenging seasons of our lives? How do we meet ourselves with self-care there?
The holiday season can, for many of us, be one of those times when we need extra self-care. It’s no surprise. The transition into winter can be challenging for our physical bodies. The days are shorter and the light is dimmer. It seems like during this season, there are more demands than at any other time of year.
Yet, we seem to have less time and place less emphasis on our own well-being when we need self-care the most.
Rather than simply grinning and bearing it (or putting more on our plates) how could we reimagine self-care?
First of all, let’s talk about the sort of self-care we’re looking to cultivate. (Because not all self-care is created equally.) When I talk about self-care, I’m talking about liberatory, awesome self-care. While it can be tempting to just put more on your plate, in the name of self-care, I encourage you to scale back.
What we’re aiming for is self-care that is custom, intuitive, feasible and kind. This isn’t the same as simply adding more. Sometimes, it means subtracting.
Set clear boundaries and expectations.
Setting boundaries and expectations is as much of an internal act as it is an external one. Which means: by all means, let others know where your boundaries are. Let them know what to expect from you. Even clarify what your expectations are as well.
But define these for yourself, internally, as well. What is enough? When will you know you’ve done enough? What are you willing and not willing to do? How will you celebrate (or rest) when you’re done? Knowing your own limitations and boundaries as important as communicating them to others.
[bctt tweet=”Knowing your own limitations and boundaries as important as communicating them to others.” username=”ChristyTending”]
When we know where are limits are, we can respect and honor them.
Put the big rocks in first.
(This reference comes from Steven Covey, who urges people to focus on the most important areas of their lives first. These are the big rocks. Then to add gravel, sand, and so forth if space (and time) allows.
So: what is most important to you? Is it decorating the house beautifully? Cooking your favorite recipes? Gathering with your closest friends and/or family? Decide early on what your priorities are and focus on those.
This becomes an especially relevant set of questions when we realize that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Knowing ahead of time what matters most – and prioritizing that – will make letting go of the rest less stressful down the line.
The same goes for self-care. What absolutely, positively needs to happen in order for you to feel whole and well? Do those things first. Then add the extras.
While we’d all love to be super-human and able to do it all, having it all isn’t always possible. But if you hone in on the big things first, it will matter less if the smaller details fall into place.
Edit with enthusiasm.
Nothing makes me happier than crossing things off my to do list right before a big event. I’ve done this with moving, leaving for a big trip, my wedding, and (you guessed it) the holidays. Once you have your “big rocks,” deciding the sand isn’t important feels easy.
Choosing for something not to get done – because you’ve decided to let it go – can feel downright blissful.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the answer is not more efficiency. Sometimes, it’s crossing things off your list that aren’t strictly necessary. If you’re running short on time, maybe the kinder thing to do would be to take a nap or shower. At that point, look at your list. What is a have-to-have? What is a nice-to-have? What can wait until later?
Edit accordingly. Joyfully, enthusiastically, and with great aplomb.
Do less, but better.
Speaking of aplomb, when you *do* choose something, choose it fully. There’s no need for martyrdom or self-sacrifice. Choose this time of year to show up whole-heartedly, with sincere empathy and gratitude. By choosing less, we can be more present with what we do choose. We can do it thoroughly and well. We can truly be in the moment, rather than casting out in six other directions.
Commit to going slowly and doing what you say you’ll do, with the highest intention, at the highest quality.
This isn’t just for others’ sake, either. When we do what we commit to, and do it well, that is an act of self-care. We are strengthening our integrity, and teaching ourselves that we are reliable and trustworthy. In those moments, we can give ourselves permission to slow down, to be with what is, and to find refuge in mindfulness of the moment.
Of course, this is also a gift to those around you, as well.
Reframe what you can’t ditch.
Can’t get out of something you’d really prefer not to do? Feeling obligated to go to that party when you’re feeling tired? Unable to turn down an invitation from someone who pushes your buttons? Feeling stuck or isolated when visiting family?
It seems like it may be time for a reframe. Reframing lets us see with new eyes. With this new frame on what previously felt like a problem, we can approach the unavoidable with fresh perspective. And perhaps greater empathy.
If we cast these these activities in a new light, we may find ourselves in a state of greater receptivity, rather than clinging. Maybe we can see it as an opportunity for practice, as a gift to the other person, or space where gratitude or curiosity could grow.
As a result, we get to the “why” underneath. We can see the meaning behind it, rather than just the impact it has on us. Consequently, what felt like a burden before can feel like a loving and compassionate choice.
Finally, be gentle and kind.
Be gentle and kind with yourself and with others. Tread gently. Offer an unsolicited compliment or kind word. Go slowly and err on the side of empathy.
This can be a tough season for a lot of people. It can bring up all of our *stuff* as humans. Everything tends to come to the surface at the holidays, leaving you and the people around you feeling a little raw. Remember to check in with people who might be feeling (or spending time) alone. And check in with yourself and your own heart as well.
Want to discover even more self-care for the holidays? Sign up for my free workshops!
Organized under Sacred Focus.