I know, I’ve mentioned the C word and we’re still in November. It’s to help you prepare for self-care, though. I promise.
I don’t know about you, but I’m never one to buy-into the Christmas frenzy (according to society or ‘media’ rules that is). But then again, that mode fits with my preference to be slightly outside the sometimes-unhealthy norms which our westernised culture appears to expect of us.
And ‘appears’ is the key word here. We don’t have to do anything that isn’t right for us, harms us or to give without counting the cost to ourselves.
I’m no longer buying gifts to please others or gain acceptance. Yes, insights over the years have revealed that some of my Gifts-of-Christmas-past were (unconsciously) bought and given to be liked or accepted by some people. To feel included. More appreciated. Be seen. To be loved. It never worked of course, because it couldn’t. It wasn’t the fix I needed for the underlying problem. My problem was the unresolved pain around the relationships themselves, which no amount of gift-giving would be able to heal at Christmas or any other time of the year.
It’s the same with spending time with people. For so long, like many of you reading this, I did what I thought was expected of me by other people. As if I didn’t have my own mind. Perhaps I really didn’t back then.
One of the biggest things to remember is that once we reflect on what we want over the festivities, what might make us happy, we are better equipped and genuinely able to give more freely and lovingly to others.
So, Early or Not, Check Out These Top Four Reflective Tips for Taking Care of Your-self This Christmas
Yes and No are Perfectly Acceptable Answers
Ok, I’m straight-in with the NO this year! When we feel we have to do something, it can feel like a chore. And chores don’t bring joy, right?
So, can you imagine saying no to something this year that you’ve always said yes to, even when you’ve never really wanted to say yes?
Ok, so if an outright ‘no’ feels like a big jump, how might you be open to ‘doing it differently’ instead of just saying yes?
We can all easily feel trapped in the ‘either-or’ game of believing we have to say either yes or no to something, but nearly every time there are many, many alternative possibilities in between. Yes, there are consequences (another C) to our choices, but perhaps it’s time to allow those consequences to be seen or to emerge for real change (okay, another C) to take place?
If you feel stuck in the either-or place, play around with your choices.
Take a big sheet of paper and put YES at one end, then NO at the other, with your reasons why beneath each one. Then stare at the space in the middle and start letting the other possibilities emerge… I guarantee they will!
Be Mindful of the Bank of Resentment
You may not be surprised to hear that staying with old patterns of give, give, give (whether that’s materially with gifts or in-person with your time, energy or love) when you really don’t want to, means you’re depositing heavily into the Bank of Resentment.
Giving when we don’t want to, actually harms our health and wellbeing – and can also harm – and be felt by – the people we’re giving to (yes, really). It’s often a surprise for people to hear that it’s not good for other people’s health either.
Well, everything is made up of energy. We are all energy. So, when someone buys you a gift they really didn’t want to buy or they give you something out of obligation, you feel it. And they feel it too, however subtle that might be.
Or when you agree to spending the holidays with people you really don’t want to spend time with, – again, out of obligation or ‘not wanting to hurt their feelings’, remember, you’re choosing to hurt yourself instead (however subtle or unimportant this might appear to you). And they won’t feel good about that – or your time spent with them – either.
It’s actually a subtle message to yourself that you don’t matter that much.
Remember all Those Other C-Words?
Nearly all of us need to work in community though, of course. We collaborate, make conscious concessions and need to compromise to meet each other’s needs all the time, especially during holiday times where everyone’s needs are important. People we love and care matter. But remembering that we all matter; means we must remember ourselves in this process.
We too are part of that collective.
I believe that it’s always important to practice self-care first, because when we don’t, we really cannot be fully present for others to genuinely give – or receive – their ‘gifts’ fully. Period.
Remember the quote “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” by Randy Pausch? It’s totally relevant and true here too.
It’s the People-Pleasing Pain which Prevents People’s Progress
There is nothing wrong of course with putting yourself out, going the extra mile or being kind to others at anytime of year. However, check your motivations or tendencies to be the one who always compromises or who always gives so much to others while neglecting your own needs.
Are you the one who always visits others, bakes, hosts or cares for the other family members or friends (when you don’t always want to) while others sit back and happily do their own thing? If so, ask yourself why you might continue to choose these behaviours? (Yes, it is a choice, even when it feels like ‘there’s no choice.’)
And when we are always the ones to give in this way, we are also preventing others from stepping forward. We step into the relationship space and fill it up. So everything feels out of balance, rather than an easy flow and give and take.
What are you thinking, feeling or believing about yourself and others which keeps you behaving in these ways? What might your secondary gains be? In other words, what’s in it for you to stay the same and not uncover your reasons for continuing down a (potentially) unhealthy path?
We often have ‘hidden’ pain or traumas which keep us give, give giving until we can give no more. We may be secretly wishing others will give us what we always give away. Or we’re desperate to be ‘seen’ in a certain light, but the light is switched off and what can really be there is darkness.
And that Bank of Resentment gets all our deposits as we keep on giving while we pause our living.
Yes, it can be painful to begin the journey of examining our motives which sometimes reveal our entire reasons for being. And letting go of old behaviours (or people, places and things) requires feeling our feelings of grief and loss.
But when we shut ourselves off to these insights, we are literally closing down opportunities to live a happier life; to build more authentic relationships, to grow and change – and to make way for others to see themselves more clearly and to grow and change too.
These routine, habitual and self-sacrificing behaviours that gradually and eventually wear us down are heightened at Christmas time, which is only shining a spotlight on our usual ways of relating.
So, What About Some Practical Steps?
Give Yourself Plenty of Time to actively think about how YOU want your festive period to look and feel. Map out all the days and time-slots available and jot down all the people, places and things you want be part of. Then start plotting them on a ‘Ideal Christmas Chart’. Include your choices, collaborations and compromises. Notice which list is higher, what ‘sparks joy’ and what leaves you cold with despair! Play around with it until it feels just right for you. Then start taking steps to put your plan into action. Talk to people. Ask others to be a part of your experiences or if you want time to be alone, note that too. Who do you want to speak to about your plans? (If anyone of course).
Remember, Snap-Decisions too close to Christmas can result in poor choices or ‘caving-in’ to everyone else’s needs and totally neglecting your own, which can lead to either mindlessly joining in with anything that ‘turns up’ in front of you or emotionally ‘check-out’ of everything.
Notice Any Pressure coming in from external sources and avoid the temptation to react or immediately say ‘yes’ to early-invitations from others, before reflecting on your own needs and wants. Remember, other people often have their own motivations for ‘getting in early’ with their invites. There is nothing wrong with this if it’s fulfilling their needs, but it may not be fulfilling or supporting yours. Notice your impulse to react. Who is it serving?
I’m Single, So No Need to Plan. It really doesn’t matter if you’re single, partnered or part of a family – large or small. You still exist and matter as an individual within any ‘system’ and you will have preferences, choices and the right to get some (or all!) of your needs met.
I Don’t Want To Be Alone. Back to point number 1. above and check out the wonderful array of resources and activities out there for people who happen to be alone at Christmas but don’t want to be. If you can, ask someone to help you decide what’s best for you. Check out some of the links too, at the bottom of this article.
So Often we are Afraid of Being Ourselves or Sharing Our Truth About What We Want or the Things That Will Make Us Happy.
Yet from personal experience and experience of people I work with, when we dare to share, to make different choices and be true to our own needs, we give that amazingly powerful gift to others to do the same.
During this time, of course some of our connections with others can fade, fall away or change in dynamic. And sometimes it takes more than a one year cycle of being bold with our choices!
But, new connections, new possibilities and new kinds of intimacies gradually appear when we stay open to our feelings and on course with our authenticity, which then deepens our bonds so that more love and true generosity can be present.
Christmas is a time where all our feelings about life, family, friends and people we love, hate or are ambivalent about are amplified. If we can spend a little time proactively thinking and reflecting about our needs, I can guarantee that we will be much more open to sharing ourselves and our love with the people and things that matter to us.
Remember, Your Authentic Life Matters!
And Help and Support is always available