Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pre-emptive (Holiday) Self-care!

Holiday season is a wonderful time of year.  We get together with family and friends, we have lovely food, we exchange gifts, and we celebrate!  But, for many people, it can also be extremely stressful.  There are many reasons why the holidays can be draining, but one of the main ones is that we don't take proper care of ourselves.

There is a tendency to overextend ourselves, to want to do things bigger and better than last year, and to say yes to everything.  And many times, this comes from a deep place in our hearts, because we want to do nice things for people we care about, we really do want to attend all the parties, and we saw that really cool idea that looked amazing and we can't wait to try it out (even though it looks like it will take forever to actually do).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably keep saying it...forever...because we all need reminding!) that you can't do for other people if you are exhausted.  Our time and energy are limited, and we have to start with ourselves, we have to make sure that we are devoting proper attention to our that we can do all those things for other people that we really want to do!

I think this really starts with good, basic self-care.  You know, the kind you should be doing all year long, but tend to 'forget' when you get busy.  Making sure you get enough sleep, eating foods that nourish your body, drinking plenty of water, listening to your body.  There is a tendency to try to do more as the holiday's approach, thinking that if we 'just get all the prep work done, then we can relax and enjoy the holiday'.

But this can end up being a flawed plan, as we may end up so tired (or worse yet, we may fall sick) that we actually can't enjoy anything.  It's a bit counter-intuitive, but if we stop and take breaks when we need them, if we actually take care of ourselves, we will have more energy and be able to do SO much more than if we keep trying to push through on pure will and end up running on empty.

Now, as I said, this is not so much special holiday advice as just a reminder that we need to keep our regular self-care going over the holidays.  For many of us, holidays bring additional challenges, and this may require more thorough self-care.

I have done a 'back to the routine' spell for many years now, to help recover from the holiday season.  It is natural to take some time to recenter after a busy or stressful time, but we don't want to only rely on after care.

One thing that many people struggle with is crowds.  This might be crowds in the stores while shopping, crowds at a party you are going to, or crowds at a family gathering.  Crowds might mean something different for everyone too, or even different things depending on who they are.  I am pretty comfortable with a group of 20 friends, but a party with 20 strangers would not be so fun for me.  Large crowds while shopping are normally okay, but highly charged holiday shoppers are another story!

I know that when I'm going out to a particularly busy place, I may need to prepare.  For me, this means taking a moment to accept that I'm going to be uncomfortable, but to remind myself that I will make it through.  I have pieces of jewelry that make me feel safe, and I often wear them.  I have clothing that makes me feel more 'me', and that is often worn too (clothing can be my armor!  even underclothing, that no one but me will know about...).  If I am going out on my own, I'll typically use headphones to help create space between me and other people (and block out the ambient noise which can bother me). 

I still sometimes need some recovery time when I get home, depending on how crazy it was, but things go a LOT smoother if I take the proper precautions.  I do the same for big family gatherings.  Part of my preparation for family gatherings is going through the questions I think I'll be asked, so that I am ready with appropriate answers. 

Now, I am fairly out of the broom closet, though I do try to not shove a bunch of witchy information in my family's face (unless they directly ask me about something).  Beyond my faith and practice, there are other topics that often lead to less than enjoyable conversations with family (video games being a big one).  Even something like someone asking me what books I've been reading puts me on the spot depending on who's asking (I read some books that touch on pretty adult topics, so if one of my teenage cousins asks, I don't necessarily want to share all of that with them).

If I plan ahead though, I can come up with honest and true answers, that still let me avoid talking about things that neither I nor my family necessarily want to talk about.  If I don't prepare, then I end up frantically trying to come up with something appropriate on the spot and typically just saying something like "Oh, I've just been doing stuff around the house..." (which even in my head sounds a little lame)

I am definitely lucky though, the absolute worst I might have to face is a lecture about how I could be 'doing so much more' with my life, but I know that many people have to worry about dealing with people who will physically or mentally abuse them.  In that case, you may need to have a more thorough plan in place.

First, you need to really consider if you want to go to something that you know someone abusive will be at.  If you are ready to talk about it, you might inform the people hosting that the person in question is not someone you feel safe around, and if they are going to be there, that you won't be able to attend.  If you aren't ready to talk about it, you might find another reason to not be there.  Remember, self-care is the most important thing!  If you don't feel safe, don't go!

Sometimes, things aren't quite so cut and dry.  You may feel that the good outweighs the bad, and the person or people you aren't comfortable around can be managed.  Your self-care might include making plans with other people there, so that you aren't ever alone, or even more active interference, so that if someone tries to start acting in an inappropriate manner, someone you trust will be there to let them know that it's not okay.

Holidays also tend to be super busy, even if you have a plan and lots of helpers, so make sure that your self-care plan includes time for relaxation and unwinding.  I start all my days with a bit of meditation, but I also think that doing more when you know you will have a busy day, is extremely helpful. 

Find the organization plan that works for you!  I love lists, but I tend to prefer paper ones, versus electronic reminders.  I know that lots of people like using apps to keep everything on track.  You may prefer to do the big things yourself, or you may ask other people to do things to help out. 

Don't be afraid to set proper boundaries as well!  If you really want to attend two parties in one weekend, you may want to plan on heading home at a reasonable hour from the first, so that you aren't overtired the next day. 

These boundaries can extend to monetary matters as well.  It can be helpful to set a budget, so that you can stay on track.  If you know that you are going to be attending several parties, you can plan to set aside money for food you are going to bring.  I try to plan out holiday gifts several months in advance.  Not only does that mean that the cost is spread out over a longer period, but if something goes awry, I have plenty of time to get it fixed.  And if I am hand making things, I have lots of time to get them done!

Holidays are wonderful, and can be so much fun.  Even more so, when we take proper care of ourselves so we can fully enjoy all they have to offer.  So do yourself (and everyone around you!) a favor, and really tune into what you need to do for yourself first, this holiday season.  Make yourself a priority, so that you can do all the things you want to do for other people, without worry.

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