The holidays can take a toll on us if we neglect our own needs. It’s easy to get lost in focusing on other people and events, and trying to check all the boxes. The Holidays are a time for connecting with the people we love, and it’s important to take care of ourselves too. Focusing on self-kindness is one way to help get you through the season without feeling too drained.
And it’s not about being selfish, or cynical: self-kindness helps us to be generous and loving to others through the Holidays, while offering the same love and care to ourselves.
So, with that in mind here are seven gifts of self-kindness you can give yourself these Holidays.
The Gift Of Permission
An especially valuable gift is to allow yourself to let go of expectations. Holidays can be a minefield of shoulds and obligations–from self and others. It’s important to give yourself permission to participate in the Holidays in a way that takes into account your own desires, energy levels, and a strong sense of who you are.
This involves consciously setting some boundaries. A nice way to think about boundaries is that you don’t create boundaries to keep other poeple out, you create boundaries for your own energy, to ensure you have what it takes to connect more meaningfully with the people you care for.
The Gift Of Time
The Holidays often descend into a dizzying blur of activity. It may seem impossible at first, but try taking the time to plan a little and slow down. Then slow down some more.
Think about where you might be able to give yourself some time buffers here and there. Can you cut some time from your shopping trip? The wrapping and preparation? Food preparation? Travel? All of these activities can get away from you if you let them. If you can’t cut time out can you spread little breaks for yourself through the time you’ve already committed to?
The Gift Of Space
I remember years back, being in line at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, pretty late on a Christmas Eve. It was jam packed and I can remember the claustrophobic feeling of standing there, people squeezed in on all sides, and a low-grade sense of anxiety rolling through the store. It was such a physical experience.
The holidays are a time where people come together, and hang out in small spaces. It’s worth noting that the people are often gathered together because they are family or friends with a shared history, and this can mean a lot of intense feelings, sometimes positive and sometimes difficult, can come up. That makes it especially important to make sure you can get some space when you need it.
My favorite way to do this is to go outside if possible. I’ll often go stand on the front porch, or in the back yard if there is one. Take a few minutes outside of the packed house, breathe in some fresh air, feel the open space around you and above you. You might be amazed at the difference one or two minutes can make.
If you can’t make it outside, try to find a quiet spot inside where you can just be alone for a few moments–the bathroom, kitchen, maybe a corner of the room where no one else is sitting.
The Gift Of Presence
Christmas is such a sensual time, and filled with beauty, too. Make sure you taste the food, smell the smells, enjoy coming in from the cold into a warm and cozy space.
Connect with yourself whenever you remember to. When you’re seated at the dinner table feel your feet on the floor, appreciate all the faces around you, take in the decorations, be as present as you can for each conversation.
The Gift Of Connection
Make the most of the moment. Who do you most want to catch up with at the family gathering? Who do you want to really touch base with at that party? Is there someone you don’t know who might be interesting to talk to? Keep an eye out for chances to craft your experience so that it resonates for you and others, allow yourself to give what you want to give and receive.
The Gift Of Rest
The Holidays can often take an emotional toll on your body, Whether it’s people you love being around, or not, emotions can get triggered. Underneath everything there’s a whole lot of emotional processing going on.
Be aware of that and allow yourself some downtime to let all this sink in and settle.
The best way to do this is to build in opportunities for rest. Take care to not overcommit to events, or tasks. If you have a long list of things to do, build in mini-rest breaks so you can pace yourself better through the day.
Put time for yourself on your to-do list! Give yourself a half hour somewhere to just put your feet up and recharge before you move onto the next taks or social event. Planning these mini-breaks ahead can really help. (Hint: Other people don’t have to know about this!)
The Gift Of Meaning
Some childhood memories I associate with Christmas include: midnight mass, pillowslips used as christmas stockings, and the slow tempo of Christmas Day spent quietly with the family.
What are the most meaningful memories of the holidays for you? It’s important to remember these and make the most of them. If your memories of the Holidays are not appealing, then give yourself permission to create your own rituals and ways of celebrating.
With the focus on family, and the sometimes overwhelming commercialization, the Holidays can be stressful. Many people are excluded and forgotten in the crush, and it can be the most difficult time of year for many.
In my early twenties I was in recovery from alcohol/addiction problems and feeling pretty alienated. An older member of my local A.A. group took me to a treatment center that had organized a gathering for A.A. members. There was ongoing meetings,free food, and no alcohol around, making it a safe and welcoming environment.
I remember feeling so grateful for the poeple who organized the event, how it allowed me to relax and connect with people and experience a sense of belonging on what would otherwise have been a very tough day.
Reaching out to people having a hard time is a great way to connect more deeply, and remember the real meaning of the Holidays.