Peace & Joy - On the Importance of Self Care
Its the holiday season, and every mom I know is currently running around like an elf at the North Pole (or, let's be honest, Mrs. Claus probably gets most of the stuff done around there) making sure that everything is ready in their house for Christmas. No matter if you're hosting or traveling, or something in between, there are meals to be shopped for and prepped and cooked, bags to be packed, presents to be wrapped, pets to arrange care for, kids to be cajoled or bribed into smiling on Santa's lap, cards to be designed and ordered and addressed and sent, and about a million other little things that are exhausting me just typing about. If you're like most women, you look at December 26th as a goal line - by the time that it arrives, you get to rest. Your house will be a mess, covered in wrapping paper and new toys, and your kids will be crazy, hyped up on sugar and little sleep and NEW TOYS, but none of that matters because the holidays will finally be OVER. Which means you can sit, drink a glass (or, more accurately maybe, bottle) of wine, and not have to do this again for another year.
Does it make anyone else sad that so many of us spend this season just trying to survive? Looking at Christmas as a finish line to be crossed, another check mark on the never ending to-do list? So many of us spend this season of giving and family and celebration running around in a haze of overwhelm, sure that we forgot to buy the ingredients for Stephan's favorite cookies, or a present for Grandma, or OH SHOOT I FORGOT TO MOVE THAT STUPID ELF!!!!
STOP. Right now, just stop what you're doing and close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Feel better? Okay. Now let's move on.....
Its Christmas, and for me that has always meant looking forward to a lot of time with my family. (I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, because what weirdo enjoys lots of time with their family, right? Well, I honestly do!) As you already know if you read my blog post on The Importance of Being Present I've been practicing being more present this year and noticing what is happening in my life. I've been practicing gratefulness, and really trying to be mindful of all of the wonderful things that I have, and wonderful people whom I love and who love me. And all of this practice has opened my eyes to a very real problem I see all around me this time of year.
We as women are NOT AT ALL GOOD at taking time for ourselves. We put the kids and our spouses and other people's opinions of us before our own needs every time. We stay up late wrapping gifts, we spend entire weekends decorating our houses, we stand in never ending lines for toys our kids will play with for a month (if we're lucky), we spend hours online designing the perfect cards to send, and then even more hours addressing and mailing the cards when they arrive, we shop, we bake, we cook, we clean, we do the endless piles of laundry, we schedule Christmas pictures and pick out everyone's outfits, we get our hair cut and make sure our husbands shave (or in my case, get a beard trim). And all of this taking care of other people leaves us exhausted and grouchy and just trying to make it until the season is over. And we miss SO MUCH when we live this way. When all you can see is the next check mark on the never ending to-do list, you miss the beautiful things that are happening all around you during this beautiful time of year.
I don't want you to miss out on anything this year. And so, I'm encouraging you to do a little more self-care, and a little less holiday crazy. If that means delegating some shopping to your husband or your kids or your assistant or a stranger that you pay $20, do it. If that means only baking 2 kinds of cookies instead of 12, pick your favorites and get to work.
That could mean you don't take the kids to see Santa this year, especially if you know they're just going to cry and scream and talk about it in therapy in 20 years. What if you didn't put up Christmas lights on the outside of your house, or (gasp) even a Christmas tree? What if, and stay with me here because I know this is hard, you DON'T SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS AT ALL??? Whatever it is that is making you crazy this season, let it go. I promise, your kids will survive without whatever thing you're standing in line for hours to buy them. I promise your husband will still enjoy Christmas with a five o'clock shadow (or a scraggly beard). Grandma will still love you if all she gets for Christmas is a hand made card (or even just a hug). And if that stupid Elf is what is making your Christmas less than Merry & Bright, then maybe he goes back to the North Pole early this year, and you spend your evenings soaking in a hot bath instead of spilling cereal all over your kitchen with a cute little note (and a mess that you get to clean up in the morning). Your kids will survive without the elf. All kids did before 2005.
Christmas is not about things anyway. All that your children, and your spouse, and your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews REALLY want is a happy, heathy YOU at the dinner table this year. So..... why not give them that? Don't put yourself last this year. Give yourself the gift of self-care for the holidays. Take hot baths if that's your thing. Linger over your coffee at Starbucks a little longer instead of rushing off to the next chore. Go to yoga class instead of to the mall. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with your family, and don't be online shopping or wrapping presents or baking at the same time.
When you slow down and take the time to take care of you, you will also begin to notice all the things you were missing. You'll see how your kids' eyes light up while you're watching those Christmas movies, and you'll be reminded of what it was like for you when you were a kid too. You might get to take time to play in the snow with your family, and then enjoy some hot cocoa when you come inside all wet and freezing. You might stay in your fitness routine, so that you don't begin 2019 feeling like you're starting all over, like you usually do. You might finish that book that's been sitting on your nightstand for weeks, because you've been too exhausted every night when you finally make it to bed to do anything but drop onto your pillow. You may have a dance party in the living room to Christmas carols, instead of hurriedly shooing the kids away so you have room to wrap. And the memories you're making are worth more than those gifts you're wrapping anyday.
Stop and take a deep breath when it feels like things are piling up on you. Remember what this season is truly about. This is a season of rest - the earth and animals go to sleep, spending time gathering their strength before they begin to grow new life in the spring. It is a season of spending time with those we love, of thinking about the year that has passed and what wonderful (or not so wonderful) things have happened, and looking forward to a fresh start and a new year. It is a season of thankfulness, of gratefulness, of peace and joy.
I hope you can find a way to avoid the overwhelm (or get out of it, if you're already there) this year. I hope you can approach Christmas with a sense of anticipation, instead of dread and the sounds of a ticking time bomb in your head. I wish you time to care for yourself first, before others, as you begin 2019. May you always know your worth, and may others cherish you as much as you cherish yourself. May this truly be a season of peace and joy in your life.