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Don’t give yourself away: practice self-kindness this holiday season

Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons Copyright All rights reserved by For Goodness Cake

‘Tis the season of giving.

My question is: are you giving yourself away?

Over here in my world, the social calendar is filling and while I love the whirl of parties and events this time of year, I also dread the season, knowing that if I’m not careful I’ll go overboard with socializing and wind up mentally exhausted and emotionally drained.  I’m somewhat of an introvert; I derive energy from being alone and need to regularly retreat from the crowd in order to recharge.  Solitude helps me avoid overload and depletion.  Somehow, unfortunately, I’ve learned this the hard way.

It’s self-care that keeps me sane, especially this time of year.  I know when I’m headed off the rails, and what brings me back.  I can gauge how well I’m taking care of myself by how many times I feel less-than, how annoyed I get with my kids, how many times I have one glass of wine too many.   

If I’m not taking care of me, who is?  If you want me at my best, I’ll need to handle that behind the scenes.  And if I choose to give myself away by focusing all my attention outward, there’s not much left behind.

If you’re like most of us, you know only too well that you “should” be doing a better job at self-care, and that there are a million things that get in the way of you taking care of yourself.  Like kids.  Your job.  The laundry.

The shopping.  The volunteering.  The visiting.  The baking of endless cookies.

I could go on.

But self-care is not a luxury, and ignoring it is like ignoring a basic need.  We need to nurture ourselves in order to thrive.  And without doing so, we wither, we get brittle, we lose our ability for compassion.  Resentment and frustration show up.  We blame more easily.  We find it hard to be kind.

Repeat: self-care is not a luxury.

Women are natural caregivers, which is why it’s ironic that most of us aren’t great at self-care.  We put out lots of energy in taking care of our kids, our parents, our families, and our communities.  So much, in fact, that it makes it easy to rationalize not taking care of ourselves.  Sometimes there’s nothing left to give at the end of all the other stuff.

And sometimes we feel guilty about extending love toward ourselves.  It’s as if we haven’t earned the right to be kind; that it’s selfish to turn inward when there’s so much else to be concerned with out there.  As if we’re being indulgent by respecting who we are.  As if self-care is a choice that, when made, has a negative impact on the world around us.

This, dear one, is a big load of crap.  I’m so sorry that we have fed it to ourselves.  And I want us to stop.

So this holiday season I wish for you a rejuvenation of your own self-care practice.  I invite you to put aside a few precious moments each day – yes, each day – to sit quietly with your thoughts.  To breathe deeply.  To ask yourself “What will help me feel most nurtured right now?”  Self-care doesn’t have to mean anything in particular, just that particular way you have of taking care of you in ways that help you drop more deeply into yourself.

If you are rusty or unfamiliar with how to nurture yourself, here are some suggestions:

Upon waking, spend 5 minutes in bed with your eyes closed, just breathing.  Your to-do’s can wait.  Simply enjoy your aliveness.

Ask yourself what your body could use to feel better.  A walk in the woods?  A nap?  A massage?  Do it today.

Pull out a journal and spend 10 minutes doodling, writing poetry, writing a love letter to yourself

Do some artwork.  Whatever form it takes.

Read novels in the bath.

Read poetry in bed.

Make yourself tea and sip it bundled in blankets on your porch.

Massage your feet with almond oil and a few drops of peppermint.

When asked to do something, pause before answering.  Notice if the answer is a heartfelt Yes.  If not, say No.

Keep a gratitude journal.  This is a lovely way to reconnect with your heart.  Come up with 10 things a day, every day.

 

Add to this list!  Please use the comments below for your suggestions.  And I hope you have a sweet, kindness-filled holiday season.

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  • Lynn / Power Chicks December 6, 2011, 12:03 am

    Oh, I love this! I so get the “overwhelm” of the holidays and love your ideas on how we can take better care of ourselves. Practices I follow are waking up 1/2 hour before my kids for quiet solitude, stretching my body to get out of my head too much, walking the dog and journalling. These things help – thanks for this great post, Amy! : )

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