by Berenice Boxler
Finally December. It´s getting colder, the holidays are around the corner. It may be that a rollercoaster of emotions is making its rounds. Maybe there is anticipation or joy with the children, relief about the upcoming break, additional stress at work, and much more. The prospect of the “merry time” can also bring up a lot of memories from times long gone, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Many unconsciously awaken the child within, especially when visiting the family. And that in turn can cause stomach ache – or pure joy.
Something is missing…
However one experiences this season, we cannot ignore the constant reminders of it. Lighting, Christmas markets, mulled wine and cookies, receptions at work – but one thing is missing every year: self-care. It’s hard to take good care of ourselves now. If on average days it is already challenging enough to take the time and space to refill the own tanks, then it is even more difficult now. Perhaps we have already realized that we can only be the loving and caring person, mother, son, partner, friend, who we want to be for others when we are feeling well ourselves. We cannot give anything of our love, patience, and attention when we are empty. So maybe we have already found a few havens of care for us. But why is it so hard to do it regularly?
Especially now that our stamina is asked for …
Obstacles are everywhere
First of all, the routine is gone. Where usually the work and life rhythm is more or less regular, the days are now constantly interrupted by end-of-year celebrations, appointments with the school teachers, gift shopping, etc. We can surely plan in the sports programme, but it is very quickly being sacrificed for a supposedly more important thing.
Temptations lurk everywhere. The colleague brings a “Stollen”. The kids want to bake cookies. Your friend invites you to an advent coffee. The Christmas dinner is planned long in advance. No matter how much we try to consume less sugar or at least not to eat over our hunger, now it is almost impossible. And our body pays the price…
Our thoughts constantly want to convince us that we don’t have time for a break. There are more important things to do now. We and our well-being are not priorities, there is just so much to do. The others are waiting for a return invitation from me. I have to drink at least one glass of wine at the Christmas party, otherwise what will the others think of me? That’s homemade, it would be so rude to refuse to taste … And so on and so on.
Not to be underestimated are also certain so-called “hot spots” in us that are triggered by memories or thought patterns. Maybe there’s a meeting with the family and nervousness builds up? After all, it’s supposed to be peaceful, but in a family there are always difficulties and old wounds – but “not at Christmas!”. Or the end of the year includes a reflection on the past few months – and where we have supposedly “failed” in our plans from January 2018 and in our expectations about ourselves and our lives. Again, this emotional stress is often not easy to carry, especially not without a stable mindfulness practice. And also then it is anything else but easy.
Step by step
In order not to lose sight of one’s own well-being, it is important to keep reminding ourselves that the most important person in our lives is ourself. And that has absolutely nothing to do with selfishness, but rather with a lot of love and care and devotion, which we can only share once we have it ourselves. Maybe an intention helps, set in the morning, to give the day a certain direction. For example: “May I take good care of myself and my body today, and allow myself to pause again and again.” It is better to proceed step by step and not to try too much.
Practicing self-care – and letting the thoughts pass
It is not always possible to make extended breaks or pursue the ambitious sports program. But there are many other ways to keep refueling.
I need a break? Then maybe I’ll open the window for a second. I drink a tea. I withdraw to a quite room for some conscious breathing. I read a few pages; stretch my tense body.
I need some kindness? Then I smile at myself in the mirror and put my hand over the heart area (and activate the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin!). I wish myself to be healthy and to feel cared for. I call a friend. I realize that rain is always followed by sun, sooner or later.
I can try to pay attention to what I feed my body with: vitamins, food, media consumption, sounds, exercise, sleep, etc. It will not always go the way I want, and of course I can have a piece of that delicious Christmas cake. But with more awareness, it will be easier to notice what I really need now, and for what reason – and when it is too much.
And when my thoughts push me? Then I can try to stop and ask myself: Is is true, what my inner voice is telling me? Is it helpful? And is it kind? Even with a single honest “no” as an answer, I can afford not to have to follow or believe this thought. It’s just a thought. Nothing else.