Christmas can be a stressful time of year. There seems to be a lot more shopping, financial pressures, more drinking, more food, more socialising (sometimes with family members that we usually do our best to avoid, which is a major stressor on its own). All of this occurs over a few short weeks.
Christmas can also be stressful for those who have lost family members. Christmas can highlight their absence and be a sad reminder that the loved one is no longer with you.
Bearing all of the above in mind, it is important to look at ways you can care for yourself over the festive period.
Taking time to be around people you love and who make you feel good
Whilst you may feel obliged to catch up with the family, remember to maintain balance with social connection with friends or people who care and support you.
Be aware of what feels right for you – in other words follow your intuition and limit time with people who put you down or who are toxic. If you find yourself going somewhere from a place of ‘should’ you will find that you will be doing it with resentment. So if you feel obliged to attend a family function, perhaps this is the year to limit the amount of time that you attend – instead of going all day, maybe leave early. Remember balance is the key here, not obligation.
You matter – self-care as a priority
Over the Christmas break why not make it a personal challenge to make you a priority. Check in with what you need, perhaps it could be reading a good novel, taking walks along the beach, catching up for coffee with a friend, sitting outside with a cuppa and enjoying nature.
Whilst Christmas is about giving to others, this year you could also include giving to yourself
Stay centred, calm and balanced
With the busyness of Christmas (they do call it the ‘silly season’) it is so easy to get pulled off centre with the shopping, preparation, school holidays, family gatherings, socialising and entertaining.
When you feel off balance or get drawn into the storm around you, it is hard to find joy and peace. However, if you are able to stay connected with yourself you have the ability to be the ‘calm in the storm’. This is possible by taking a moment (or 2 or 3 or 4) where you take a breath and bring yourself back to the NOW. The body is always present; it is the mind that takes us off into the future. We worry about what might happen or focus on catastrophic possible outcomes, as we take ourselves off onto a journey to who knows where. Or the mind takes us back into the past, where we ruminate about things that have occurred, or been said.
So staying calm, present, centred and connected is vital to your health and wellbeing at this time of year.
Below is a link for a short ‘coming to your senses’ recording by Petrea King from the Quest for Life Foundation. Taking some time out to do this short practice will support you in looking after you this holiday season.
http://www.questforlife.com.au/_literature_161871/Coming_to_Your_Senses.mp3. It is not necessarily about the gifts but more about giving.
Families can spend an immense amount of money each Christmas on buying gifts. Often this can be money that they don’t have or cannot afford. Do we really need more stuff?
As a family, we no longer buy gifts for each other. We do buy for the grandchildren, but the adults in the family have all decided that we now donate whatever money we were going to spend on presents to a nominated charity. This feels right for us and you will know what feels right for you and your family.
If you do give gifts it can be the thought that counts or celebrating loving and joyous time with family.
So with the end of 2016 approaching, rather than focusing on what you want to bring into 2017 and making resolutions about how you want things to be different, perhaps this is the time to reflect on all that you have accomplished this year and in your life. Also to get in contact with your sense of gratitude and appreciation for your family, loved ones, friends, your health or work.
A family ritual we have adopted is before we eat our meal at a family gathering, we go around the table and each say what we feel grateful for. It has become a family tradition that we all love
So taking this opportunity to stop thinking about your life, your job, and everything you want to change, and for one now, this time, this year, to be filled with gratitude and being present in the moment, surrounded by people you love and support you.
I hope by applying some of these principles will allow you to have a joyous, peaceful and loving holiday period.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and joyous New Year
Does it seem selfish to make yourself a number one priority in your own life?
I admit that many years ago I used to be a workaholic who ran around like a crazy woman trying to get it right for everybody else. I think if you were to look at a pendulum with selfless being at one end and selfish being at the other, my pendulum was definitely swung permanently to the selfless side. In other words I abandoned myself in order to please others.
So I found out the hard way that this is not a healthy or effective way to live as I felt burned out. I was running a Wellness Centre, teaching and facilitating groups, was co-founder of a Foundation (where I put in a lot of energy and hours) was in private practice as a Therapist and I think in amongst all of that I was studying. Wonder woman! Not really more like crazy woman. I coped and had lots of energy and in all of that did some amazing work, but other areas of my life suffered, being, my relationship with my partner, my connection and time with my adult children and my health.
I was never diagnosed with a breakdown or burnout but it felt very much like that. One day I just woke up and thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. I ultimately ended up selling the Wellness Centre, cut back on seeing clients
and eventually made the decision to close the Foundation (which could have ended up being a full time job). I retreated into the back of the valley where we live – a beautiful, serene place where I had an opportunity to STOP and smell the roses. I took time to potter in the garden and have a cup of tea in the sun and spend some quality time with my partner, my family, my friends and ME!!
At that stage I could not have cared if I never saw another client again. I liked the serenity and was actually scared of heading back out into my career again for fear of falling back into my well-worn pattern of being that woman who can do anything.
It was through supervision where I explored the possibility of it not having to be one or the other. To completely pull my energy back and withdraw from the world and my career OR being the ‘rat on the wheel’. I could make a conscious choice to have more balance in my life. After all I love what I do
and I love teaching and supporting my clients.
So I experimented and gradually put myself out into the world again, but on this occasion I set very clear and concise boundaries on how and when I would work. Before if I had a client in crisis I would make the time to see that client on days when I would not normally work. With my new balance, I would naturally support a client in crisis over the telephone and ensure they were safe, but I would only see clients on the determined days and times. A huge shift for me and I felt so empowered by my decision. I actually learned to say NO I can’t fit you in or I am booked out until —. My clients survived and waited and I was in a far better space to see them.
So that was the beginning of my new found self-care regime. By making me a priority in my own world, it is amazing what a difference it makes. I feel alive, refreshed, balanced, calmer (my partner says I am nicer now) and I love my life.
So I wanted to share with you some of the things that changed my life. Things that I currently put into my day – everyday without fail. Because I do matter and it is my job to look after me. To look after my emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.
Yoga and the 5 Tibetans
Every morning I do my own Yoga routine combining the Five Tibetans
I have found that my flexibility has improved, my core strength has improved and I feel amazing. I do these in the morning simply because it gives me energy for the day. I began with 7 repetitions, then moved to 14 and now I do 21 repetitions.
Set out below is a YouTube link so you can view the Five Tibetans.
Mindfulness, Meditation and Coming to my Senses.
I make it my everyday practice to slow things down and notice things around me. Years ago I could have driven along the lovely country road where we live and not even remembered I had driven, let alone what was around me. Now I take time to look at the trees, the people who are walking their dogs,
smile, sometimes stop and say hello, so I am far more present and in the here and now – not focused on where I need to be or worried about some issue.
Mindfulness has been a life saver for me. I am mindful about everything in my life, including what I eat and drink. Slowing everything down and enjoying every precious moment of every precious day.
Daily meditation has also become routine that I love in my life. I find that I do this in the mornings after my exercises and it gives me a good start to the day. I usually do a guided visualisation or sometimes I will sit quietly out the back in the morning sun. This practice takes about 20-30 minutes each day. I do want to say don’t make this another thing that you have to do. Yet another chore. If you only have ten minutes, just do ten minutes. Your mind, body and soul will love it.
Coming to your Senses!
Wow this has also been life changing for me. I initially learned this at the Quest for Life retreats and it has become something that I religiously do throughout my day. I have added a link with a free download from the Quest for Life Foundation
Laughter and joy.
Spending time with my grandson is precious as it allows me to be silly, laugh and get down on the floor and get into my own child, so being playful, dropping any inhibitions and letting go.
Laughter and joy also come into my life spending time with my partner, my children and my friends. Also watching a good comedy.
Quality time with my man
Love sitting out the back or by the pool with a nice glass of wine or a coffee and communicating/ chatting/ connecting with my partner. Precious
Ah spending time with our beautiful old horse. She is an ex race horse who was very skittish and afraid when we first rescued her. With much patience and love she now runs up when she sees me and puts her head on my shoulder for a hug. Just gorgeous. I miss old Border collie who passes away just before Xmas. She was 15 and a real gift in our life.
Getting out in the garden is music for my soul. Calms and soothes my system and I get great joy and satisfaction from the results. Not only is this self care for me but I find it’s a great way of releasing energy. If I’m feeling frustrated about something or somebody, expending my frustration or anger with digging up the weeds is extremely helpful.
Every day I say a prayer of gratitude for my health, my partner, my family, my grandson, my friends, my horse, our beautiful home and get in contact with an immense set of appreciation for everything I have in my life.
Being gentle with myself
My critic can be a bit harsh from time to time. Particularly if I am resting by the pool instead of ‘doing some work’, so for me it is about being gentle and compassionate and telling my critic to have a rest:)
I also find that I question my inner talk and give myself permission to feel whatever I am feeling at that given moment. Feeling the feeling, acknowledging that I have a right to feel this way and leaning into and giving myself permission to be angry, sad, overwhelmed etc.
Reading a good book
Love it when I get a great novel and get lost in the story. What pure pleasure it is to give myself permission to sit by the pool and read my book. This is a huge shift for me and when I say ‘giving myself permission’, this took some serious challenging of my work ethic. For those who have studied Schema therapy, back in the day I was extremely high in the ‘unrelenting standards’ schema, so very high expectations on what I ‘should’ be able to do. A lot of this came from early childhood beliefs and expectations. I know that if I did the schema questionnaire now it would be much lower as I have made conscious decisions around change.
Water baby- just love the water and find it calms me down and brings me great pleasure. Walking along the beach or sitting near the water is very soothing for the soul.
These are just a few of the things that have helped me to lead a more balanced life. I hope you find this useful as applying self-care strategies has made me a better partner, mother, friend, person and I feel a better therapist.
I will say one thing to finish off. When I first started to do things for me, like attending retreats or travelling to India for an astrology conference with some friends, I recall that one day over the phone my son said to me ‘ Ma I need to say something to you, I think you are getting a bit selfish lately ‘ I was so shocked by this comment. When I had taken a breath and centred myself, I said to him ‘ no mate not selfish, it’s SELF CARE!!!! Happy to say that by modelling self care, my son ( who had taken on a lot of my work hard and be selfless ethics) is now starting to do some self-care stuff for himself – like paddle boarding, taking time out with his wife on their new yacht and saying no. Great to see the ripple effect when one person changes in the family system.
I am also very happy and excited to share that I am now taking this concept of self-care even further. My friend and business partner, Penny Brenton and I are now running retreats in beautiful Bali. So, if you would like to explore and experience your own self-care, why not join us.