As we enter into this season of giving, it is important to remember to give to yourself too.
While it is certainly a time for celebrating and festive cheer, it can also be a difficult time for many. At this time of year, we often can find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed and more.
You might be looking at a lot of planning, cooking and shopping for family and friends, which can bring pressure and financial strain. Or facing into challenging deadlines before year end at work. For some, it brings loneliness and anxiety. You might be reflecting on the year that has gone and feeling disheartened by progress. And to top it all, with the additional challenges we face with Covid, this December may be an especially tough one.
What matters is you remember in this season of giving, it is vital that you give to yourself too.
That may mean creating boundaries and allowing yourself permission to say no to some things. Practicing simple self-care activities more regularly. Or simple allowing yourself a little space to breathe occasionally.
We also often experience repeated patterns this time of year. We find ourselves in the same family dramas, wishing we said no to things that we don't enjoy, not getting the rest we have been longing for and more...
So to help you enjoy this December, here are a few tips to support you in give yourself something too. As always, have a pen and paper to hand (and a nice hot chocolate maybe too...it is the season)!
AWARENESS - Start by giving yourself a moment to think about what typically arises for you during the Christmas and holiday season? What habits or patterns exist that make you unhappy or cause your frustration? What challenges might lie in the coming weeks? What needs do you have that often go unmet? This is especially important because being aware allows us to have choices and to make change in our lives.
INTENTION - Write now what you would like to be different this year. Set the intention for yourself on what will be different and WHY you want it to be different. By acknowledging the why here you can connect to the feelings that you want to experience instead. It also to shift your expectations and mindset to being more about what you have the power and choice to do differently this year.
COMMUNICATION - Communicate your plans well in advance. If you are breaking patterns which will affect others, for example, not doing all the present organising or not cooking the huge family dinner, let everyone know early. This can be hard as you may feel some guilt or be met with some resistance. By doing it as early as you can, it allows others to make alternative plans and have no excuse to push back on you. Therefore you can feel more at ease with your new plan and can kick guilt to the kerb.
PLAN - Create a plan for yourself, including your down time. A big part of Christmas stress is overwhelm and procrastination, which leave us in last minute panics. Lack of planning also means when we have unfilled time, it is harder to say no when someone looks for us to do something. So look at the month ahead. Plan in times for shopping, wrapping, visiting or whatever essential bits and bobs like that you have on your list. And then plan in REST into your diary too. I genuinely mean putting it into your calendar. This helps you feel more committed to the plan and helps to say 'I'm not free then' to people who may make demands of you.
YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SET YOURSELF ON FIRE TO KEEP OTHERS FEEL WARM
So by now you might be feeling great and thinking "Yes, I can do this" and I am thrilled if you are! However, it is also a little possible you are feeling a little anxious or nervous about trying to change things. A fairly normal thought people experience is that "But I don't want to be selfish."
We are often told that choosing to put our own needs first makes us selfish. And that in turn makes us mean, nasty people. It is important to challenge this way of thinking and to allow yourself the permission to have needs too. Being selfish sometimes is healthy and essential for you to be your best self and subsequently bring the best to your loved ones.
We have all heard the expression "you can't pour from an empty cup" and at Christmas time it can drain very quickly if you don't keep topping it up.
So how do you embrace your own needs, set boundaries, say no and not be crippled with guilt?
Firstly, all of those steps outlined above will have helped you to connect with your needs for the coming weeks. Now, it about practicing consistency and commitment to yourself to stick to them.
However, habits and patterns are stubborn. As are some people. If you experience push back, whether it is your own thoughts and feelings trying to make you give in, or other people's pressure or expectations, here are some simple questions to ask yourself which will help keep you on track.
By saying yes to this, what am I saying no to? An example might be you have planned a day to chill out, watch Christmas movies and get some much needed rest - but someone invites you over for a visit. You may feel pressured because 'I am not really doing anything anyway'. So in this case, if you say and go, you sacrifice your day's rest, your recharge. You say no to yourself and what your body needed.
Is this actually necessary or important? Are you preparing three desserts when one and a box of chocolates might suffice? Are you stressing over the perfect present for someone when really they are simply looking forward to spending time with you? We often create such high expectations for ourselves, or assume others expect things of us, but when we take a moment to stand back and look at it objectively, we can see what's truly necessary and where we can remove some pressures and stresses.
Do I actually want to do this / go to this? Are you overwhelmed at the thoughts of being invited to places or feeling like you must host for example? Sometimes, we get so lost in the feeling of overwhelm, we don't consider what we actually want or need. And often, by simply giving ourselves permission to decide, we can be happy to go or to host, because it was our choice rather then something we felt forced to do.
And lastly, I wanted to share a simple way to help with saying NO to things you don't want to do. Stall! When the phone rings, don't answer. If a text comes through, don't jump to reply. If it is a phone call, you may have an idea of what the person wants, so before you call back, prepare your response. With a text, take a moment to read the message, see what is being asked of you and check in with yourself before replying. We lose our ability to say no when we are put on the spot. So pause, think, choose and prepare your response. The above questions will help to decide what you want to do. Then be honest, courteous and express your need. By staying true to you, the negative feelings and thoughts will lessen. I won't lie (because at Christmas you tell the truth) - it takes practice. It may feel uncomfortable, but it gets easier and the more you do it, the less resistance from others you'll experience too. In fact, our loved ones are often quite happy for us acknowledging our own needs, we just assumed they wouldn't be.
So on that note, I wishing you a less stressed, more relaxed December. And a wonderful Christmas too.
As always, if you have any feedback or questions, please let me know! We can learn and inspire each other. And if there is anyone you feel may benefit from reading this, please share.
Love Claire x
PS. If you are interested in coaching to help with procrastination, belief, change, creating the life and career of your dreams or more, drop me a message.