This time of year can be wonderful for the opportunity to gather with friends & family, to witness & receive small gestures of kindness and generally to experience the slow slide into the winter season with the impending promise of brighter days.
It can be also a time of stress, worry and short-fuses where you may forget to take care of yourself. Remember that taking care of yourself is important for you to be your best for those around you. You deserve to take the time for yourself for self-care. I’ve been reminded of this recently and realized that I’ve been neglecting myself, so it’s a great opportunity for me to change that, and to briefly share some things that work for me.
I’ve gathered these over the years and will try to properly attribute the source, although I know I may miss some.
Turn off the judgement & comparisons
It can be easy to get into the comparison game at this time of year. Emotions can run a little closer to the surface as well, resulting in minor conflicts that escalate needlessly. Try to take all judgement out of situations, both of yourself & others. Truly listen to yourself and those around you to get past the surface and dig into the real conversation about what you or others need. If you can see things from the other person’s perspective without judgement, you may get an appreciation for what their needs are. Those needs may simply be a bit obscured by the emotion of the situation and the words that can get in the way. The book “Love is letting go of Fear” says that everything comes down to love & fear. Anger is just someone expressing that fear and that they need love and understanding.
Take time for reflecting, and make moments of calm to quiet any chatter that may be going on inside your head. This time of year is full of distractions which can make it even more challenging to turn down the volume. But, you can make a start by removing distractions where you can. Social media can have wonderful benefits with connections to people you care about, but try to limit your exposure & time spent in those apps. As well, approach your social media without any kind of expectation: approach your contributions from the perspective of being your gifts that you openly give, with no expectation of anything in return.
Meditation & mindfulness exercises are also great ways to quiet things down. There are many resources online for both topics, but mindful breathing is always a great starting point. “Square breathing”, where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and finally hold your breath for a count of 4, is a great way to begin to slow things down and to become very aware & focused on your breathing and physical state.
My gratitude practice has become a really powerful tool for me to counter any feelings of doubt, lack, and resentment. I’ve found that the more I regularly express my thanks for all the experiences & people in my life, good & challenging, the easier it is for me to snap out of any negative or critical thoughts. Some people use a gratitude journal; I verbalize out loud at the start & end of my day all the things that I’m thankful for. It helps me frame my day in a more curious & positive light, and ends my day before falling asleep with a feeling of peace.
It’s easier to be social at this time of year, but I really mean to seek out those closest to you especially if you are starting to feel the stress is more than you can handle, and making you feel anxious as a result. Kelly McGonigal gave a wonderful TED talk on making stress your friend & ally and explained how seeking out your support group in times of stress can be the best thing you can do. Be mindful of your needs & boundaries (what we referred to as Balanced Self-Determined behaviour in Life Skills Coaching) but try not to isolate yourself from others if you are having challenges coping.
I know, I know – you can’t really just tell a person to be creative. What I’m really trying to get across is the idea of being playful & curious. This is a wonderful time of year to try creating a new meal with friends, explore a new neighbourhood, volunteer with a new organization, take up a new hobby or sport – as long as you do it without judging yourself or feeling that you have to be “perfect”. In fact, remove all notion of perfection from your process because all that does is keep you comparing yourself against a possibly unattainable goal. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your abilities, whether they be physical or some kind of skill. But approach it from a place of fun & curiosity. Even better, link your new creativity with sharing and make something for or with someone close to you, or invite them on an adventure with you.
Fuel up well
It can be very easy to fall into not-so-great patterns with over-indulging at this time of year. Suffice to say, get the rest you need, eat sensibly & in moderation, and take advantage of the winter season to be active with friends & family. With less sunshine typically around this time of year, you’ll have to make up for the lack of mood-lifting sunshine with your own energy sources. Keeping things in balance with your sleep, fuel & activity can overcome the seasonal effects of winter.
This one is hopefully an easier task to accomplish – just laugh more, or put yourself in situations where it will be easier to smile. Watch a funny movie, go out with friends somewhere you’ve never been before, watch animals play in the park – there are so many opportunities to use laughter to get the good hormones pumping through your body to lift your mood, increase your breathing capacity and connect to people around you. For me, reading Calvin & Hobbes is a sure-fire way to crack me up and bring a smile to my face.
I hope you find some of these helpful and that you share your own Learnings & techniques with those around you. After all, it is the season for sharing.