Dear Candy - Navigating the Holidays
Today's question is about how to best navigate the holiday season and get the most out of this time of year.
The holiday season can be demanding for some. Lots of pressure to attend social events, cook, entertain family, and have way more on our plate than what is ideal for wellbeing. For others, it can be a time of loneliness and longing. Regardless of which one of these applies to you, here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate this holiday season.
1. Appreciate the beauty of the season
This is a beautiful time of year with all the lights and decorations, and the changing seasons (if you live somewhere that has seasons). Take some time to enjoy and appreciate all of the beauty that surrounds you. Seek out that which you find beautiful and then take a moment to simply breathe and enjoy it. Do this as much and as often as you can. Look for things each day and end your day by asking yourself, "What was the most beautiful thing today?" This orients your brain to seek out more beauty. Focusing on what we find beautiful can create an opening to other elevated emotions.
2. Let go of the should's and have good boundaries
Often we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. There is a reason why a large number of people with limbic system and nervous system issues are perfectionists or Type A personalities! Take some time to reflect on what you are expecting of yourself over these next six weeks, and whether these expectations are realistic. Make a list and prioritize what is important to you to do or what you truly want to participate in. Look at what can be let go, even just for this year. If you find yourself feeling like you "should" do something, ask yourself why that is. Notice what is driving that "should." (This might also give you some insight into your automatic negative thoughts/core beliefs running below the surface). If there are feelings of guilt or shame that arise, do some retraining around them. Know that the better you take care of yourself the more you have to offer others. It is not the quantity that you do but the quality of time spent that truly matters. It is absolutely okay to say no sometimes. It does not make you a bad person, and self care is not the same as selfish (these are automatic negative thoughts).
3. Be sure to include things that fill you up and feed your soul, and take time to just be (even if only for a few minutes)
The hectic pace can, at times, get in the way of allowing us to take a moment a just breathe. We get swept away in the chaos of it all and forget or postpone doing the things that give us the foundation that would be truly supportive and actually helpful for us. The first things to go are often the things we need the most. In order to stop this pattern from happening, we need to re-evaluate our priorities and look at what is most important. Ideally, it's not about just "getting through" the holidays, it's about how we get through it and who we are during the process.
Find times for yourself, even if it just a few minutes here and there. Sit and enjoy that cup of tea, take five minutes to breathe the fresh air and enjoy your surroundings (including people). Remind yourself of what fills your cup and schedule these things in, knowing that the more full your cup, the more you have to offer to others. If you can, meditate each day either in the morning or mid afternoon to set the tone for the day or to have a reset part way through, even if it's just for five minutes.
If the hectic pace is not the problem, but rather the loneliness and solitude, again find things that fill you up, and be open to really taking it in. Be present to what you are doing, don't just go through the motions. No matter how difficult the circumstances there are always things we can be grateful for, beauty we can appreciate, moments we can savour. Get really clear on what is important to you, what you enjoy, what makes you feel good. If you are not sure, reflect on what you used to like in the past, or what you think you might enjoy and start introducing some of those ideas. Or learn something new. We can change our perspective of this time from one of isolation to one of inner retreat and rejuvenation, and find activities to support that.
4. Be aware of what you are focusing on. Remember what you focus on is what you grow.
As the saying goes, "what you focus on is what you get in the picture." What do you want in your picture? What do you want to grow? Its likely not the feelings of irritation with relatives or the pressure of the to-dos, or the isolation, so what else can you give your attention to? How do you want to feel and what can you focus on that will support the enhancement of that feeling?
5. Consider doing some small acts of kindness or generosity
Small acts of kindness and generosity are often as beneficial to the person offering them as the person receiving them, if not more. Consider contributing to the local food bank, or another charity, offering help and support to a neighbour or person in need, or simply offering a smile or a kind gesture to a stranger. Even if we are wearing masks, a genuine smile reaches the eyes and can be perceived by others. If we can't get out and interact with others, we can send prayers or intentions of wellbeing to various people or parts of the world, write an email or call a friend or family member and tell them what we appreciate about them, or send a silent thank you to all the people in the world that make it possible for our food to reach our table.
6. Look for the things you love in the people that trigger you
This is a way of reorienting our perspective. There is always more than one side to a person, and keeping in mind #4, we want to focus on what we want to grow. If someone close to you is really triggering you, remind yourself about what you love or appreciate about that person. What are their strengths? Do they have qualities you admire? If this doesn't work, consider the behaviour they are exhibiting and have a good honest look at where you might be doing the same thing in your own life. Sometimes the things that trigger us the most are characteristics we have within that we don't want to acknowledge. By noticing where that shows up in our lives we have a choice as to whether to continue that behaviour, and it sometimes leads to more compassion and less triggering towards others who do the same.
7. Ask yourself each day, "How can I be the best version of myself today?"
This is a great question to start your day. It reorients you away from the do-to list or fortune telling about the day and back to how you want to be in the world and navigate your day. Every day is a new start, so if yesterday we maybe weren't our best version, we can start again today. Ask yourself, "what inner qualities do I want to express today that will help me be the best version of myself?" It might be kindness, compassion, open-mindedness, trust, faith, love, gratitude, lightness, humour, detachment, creativity, or some other quality that you identify as important to you.
8. Take time to review the highlights of the year and set your intention for next year
The end of the year is a wonderful opportunity to do a review of this past year with the intention of only looking for the good. What were the highlights? What is different about you (that's positive) at the end of this year compared to the beginning? It may be your persistence and tenacity, and willingness to continue retraining that is your biggest highlight. And if we dig deep, there is likely even more highlights for you.
This is also a time to set an intention for our future. I do not mean a new years resolution but rather an ideal for how we want to be in the world that is reflective of who we truly are inside, regardless of the symptoms that may be expressing. Get really clear on what that would be like, & how you would know when you are expressing that ideal version of yourself. This helps us to determine when we reach our goal.
Remember at the end of the day we always have choice around how we operate in the world, and if we don't make a conscious choice our subconscious will make it for us and go back to the old default patterns. Let's take this opportunity to consciously choose how we want to navigate our inner landscape this season, even if its just starting with one thing out of this list. May it be in the most gentle, beautiful and health affirming way possible!
Next Monday: How to maintain motivation and not get discouraged
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com