Holidaze is not a misspelling. I use it because it is so indicative of what the holidays can feel like—a holy daze! As we run around buying gifts and preparing our foods and celebrations, it is so easy to forget ourselves and go far beyond our limits. When the gift opening or the meal or party that we’ve been so busy planning and preparing for finally arrives, we wonder why it’s hard to enjoy it. We wonder why we feel so exhausted, strung out and stressed. This article is a reminder to remember yourself in the rush of the holidays. What would it be like to really nurture yourself during this season?
The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but heart-felt activity.
I love this quote (even if I can’t remember its source) because it works! The best way to combat stress and exhaustion is not necessarily sleep. In fact, if you’re really exhausted, sometimes you can find you’re too tired to sleep—or if you do sleep, you sleep fitfully. The real cure for feeling strung out and stressed is to find something that touches your heart and nurtures you—something that is enlivening, silly and even a waste of time. Something that is about play, not work or your to-do list. Children know this one really well. Why do you think they have so much energy?
A fast track to knowing what would be a heartfelt or nurturing activity is tuning into the child in you. Ask yourself: “What does the child in me want?” or “What is purely about fun and play for me?”
Then see if you can make some time and space for “your inner child.” You will be amazed what a difference this can make! There is something powerful that happens when you turn your attention and focus toward what is pleasant and enlivening. It’s as if what your radar is focused on is what you end up seeing more of, simply because you are tuning in. See if giving “your inner child” some time and space this year doesn’t change the whole flavor and tone of the holidays for you.
My favorite questions to clients at this time of year are: What is heartfelt activity for you? What would be nurturing?
I have found that women in particular can have a hard time giving themselves permission to focus on their own fun and pleasure. We are so often encouraged to focus on everyone else but ourselves, so it’s no surprise that at the end of all the festivities we can find ourselves feeling resentful and depleted! Yet if we focus on ourselves we think we are being selfish. So I encourage my female clients to reframe “selfish” and instead be “self-full.” If you are giving when your glass is full, it’s a very different experience than when your glass is nearly empty.
For the eating-disordered population, needs and self-care are especially crucial during the holidays. Ignoring one’s needs is a set-up for a relapse. I focus almost exclusively on needs and self-care with my eating-disordered clients at this time of year. Otherwise, it is too easy for food or rituals around food to become the only attempt at self-nurturing. (Look at my article “Food, Family and the Holidays” for more about ways that those of us who struggle with food, weight and body image issues can take better care of ourselves during the holidays.)
Here are some of my favorite ideas for self-nurturing during the holiday season:
* A hot bath with your favorite tunes and scents
* Curling up with a good book
* Calling a loved one to chat
* Playing with your pet
* A cup of hot cocoa by the fire
* Playing a game
* Drawing, painting, beading or doing something creative
* Spending time in nature
What are your own favorite ways to nurture yourself? Remember don’t forget to ask “your inner child”!