Self-Care Through the Holidays

If I’m not careful, every year by mid-November, my good self-care habits and intentions fly out the window as I slog away at work and try to fit one more thing into my schedule. But with each trip around the sun, I have become increasingly sensitive to stress, and my body, mind, and spirit cannot handle being ignored.

For instance, if I work past lunchtime, instead of eating when I’m hungry, my blood sugar dips low and I’m tired, dizzy, cranky, and get a headache.

If I stay up too late hunched over my computer–to get just one more thing done–I have a difficult time falling asleep and whatever sleep I do get leaves me feeling not very well rested.

If I fail to move my body and meditate because “I don’t have the time” my joints get sore and creaky, my outlook is negative, and I feel stressed, out of shape, and have low energy.

But it’s true that we all have so much to do and so many places to go this time of year. So how can we have a satisfying holiday experience while still practicing good self-care habits?

What To Do?

There are two ways that I can think of to have a holiday season that aligns with who you are and how you want to feel and still leaves room to take care of yourself and enjoy this festive time.

1. Ask for what you want and need. For example: maybe you could ask a spouse to make dinner more often, ask the kids to step it up with household chores, ask a friend if she could help you decorate for a party.

2. Say no and let go…of the idea of the “perfect” holiday. In order to slow the season down, you’ll have to say no to some things. Maybe you can bake 2 kinds of cookies, not 10. Maybe you can sign up for one charity event, not three. Maybe you don’t need to put up quite as many lights outside as you usually do. Maybe you get Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve instead of that huge Italian dinner you make that everyone loves, but leaves you exhausted. (I’m looking at you, Mom.)

When I was younger, I wanted to give my kids and family the perfect Christmas experience. The month of December was a blur of church events, recitals, and activities that left me with little time for self-care.

I always stayed up late on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts or doing last minute preparations. I’d get up early, serve homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, have my whole family over for dinner around 2pm, followed by a 5pm dessert open house when extended family and friends would come over. I would be dizzy with exhaustion the whole day and couldn’t wait for it to be over!

Then one year, I was actually sick with a fever, but still had to do all the things. That did it! My idea of a perfect Christmas had made me sick. So I smartened up and began to do less and ask for help more.

Questions/Thoughts To Design a Better Holiday

We are a just a week away from Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., which hurls us into the craziness of the commercialized Christmas season. Rather than live the season the same way year after year, what if you really did things differently? I invite you to sit with yourself and ask yourself these questions and then shape the next month in a sensible way that will leave room for self-care, wonder and delight.

Write down your idea of a memorable holiday season: how would you feel, what would you have time for?

Which holiday traditions do you or your family most look forward to each year? (Baking cookies with the kids or with friends, advent readings, attending a religious service, caroling, dinner with family…)

What things could you let go of this year?

What does your self-care routine look like during the holiday season?

What would your ideal daily and weekly self-care routine look like during this time? Be specific.

In order to have a ___________________ holiday season, one in which I take care of myself, enjoy the festivities with my loved ones, I need to: (Hints: ask for help from partner, kids, don’t sign up for as many events/activities, etc.)

Don’t Put Yourself Last on the List

As you’re thinking about the next month, make sure you make yourself a priority. No, this is not selfish! Women especially can struggle to take care of themselves. But guess what? You need to take care of yourself for you and for your family’s sake. Don’t wait to see what everyone else is doing before you decide when you can “fit in” self-care.

Have you ever heard that story about the rocks and sand in the jar? If you put all the sand (unimportant, trivial matters) into the jar (your daily schedule) and then try to fit in the rocks (the priorities) you can’t do it. But if you put the rocks into the jar first, you can fit the sand around them. Your self-care is a rock. Put it into the jar first.

These are my Everyday Self-Care 7

1.Move your body 

2.Drink enough water

3.Eat healthy food

4.Spiritual Practice (examples: prayer, meditation)

5.Get enough sleep/rest

6.Do something you enjoy

7.Practice gratitude

OK, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are designing your holiday season this year. 

Thoughts and ideas on having your healthiest, most satisfying holiday ever!

Courage, Dear Heart (Wellness Wednesday)

We were getting ready to drive to a music gig near Keuka Lake, filling water bottles, ironing clothes, and packing snacks when I spotted the mail basket. I rifled through the pile and came across a letter addressed to me from the U.S. District Court. Oh no!!! (Oh, yes.) It was a jury summons–but this was worse than usual: for a period of at least a year, several times per month, an hour and a half drive each way.

At the moment I felt like freaking out, but we had a three-hour performance that afternoon, so I read it over once and set my freak-out aside until after our show. By the evening, my chest felt tight, by the end of the next day, I had a sore throat and my shoulders and neck were sore with tension.

I filled in the online questionnaire and gave a valid excuse why I couldn’t serve (my business can’t survive without me), but I have to wait three weeks to find out if I still have to go.

So, now I have a choice to make: I can live each moment until then in fear, worry, upset, dread, and panic, or I can find ways to act and think differently–with positivity, joy, and courage.

Gretchen Rubin’s Third Commandment from her Happiness Project is “Act the way you want to feel”. Does that seem too much like “Fake it till you make it”? But think about it: Where will those good feelings come from if we don’t take the energy we have and transform it into something better?

If you don’t happen to wake up happy and positive each day, do you just let that dark cloud of gloom hanging over you ruin your whole day? I’ve absolutely been guilty of this. I’ve also had days where I wake up super negative but do the things I know will propel me out of my funk.

The first scenario is a passive one: I just go with whatever happens, just feel whatever feelings I feel and act however I feel. The second scenario is active: I take what I have and make something better out of it. Do you know these are both decisions?

You and I can either decide that we will let our feelings run us OR we can decide that we will run our feelings. You are more powerful that you realize! You have the power to make or break your day!

But what about if you’re already an anxious person (like I am) and you happen to be in an extremely anxious season? The Fall seems to heighten anxiety for me and I know I’m not alone. We don’t have to take it! (Does this remind you of a certain Twisted Sister song?)

I wanted to share a list of things that help me calm down. Some of these I am learning in Ayurveda School, some of them I’ve learned in the HSP class I’ve been taking, some I’ve learned as an aromatherapist, and some I’ve discovered on my own. They all help, but there’s just one catch: We have to actually do the things!

Get up before the sunrise.

Practice meditation/pray.

Journal and write your manifestations. (Listen to Rachel Hollis in this podcast episode on why.)

Visualize how you want your day to go, walk through any known difficulties and decide how you will handle them. (Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for your awesome High Performance Planner!)

Develop a daily yoga practice. It could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes, but practice. There is nothing else like it for calming the mind, connecting the mind and body, and grounding you.

Drink herbal tea/coffee substitute. You know what? I don’t love most herbal teas, but I drink it because it calms me down. Lemon balm has been daily go-to. However, I just found a new caffeine free gluten free herbal tea that satisfies my coffee craving without the jitters. If you’re a coffee nut like I wish I could still be, you gotta try it: Teeccino Dandelion Coconut Roasted Herbal Tea.

Go for a walk outside. I always feel refreshed and my nervous system feels soothed when I do.

Eat lots of plants.

Have a gratitude practice. This could be in your journal in the morning or at night.

Keep a positives journal. This is new to me, but the teacher of the HSP class said sensitive people focus on the negative too much and need positive things to keep them grounded. Make notes of what good things happen in a day, things you love, moments of happiness, and then read through these when you’re feeling anxious.

Read poetry. YES!!! If you think you don’t like poetry, start with children’s poems and approachable poets like Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Poetry speaks to and nourishes the soul, the emotions I would say that if you’re a sensitive person, like I am, you may not be able to read some poetry that tends to be chaotic, angry, and violent. I tend to gravitate toward poems that express reverence for nature and that speak to the inner life of a person. These are a good place to begin:

Devotions by Mary Oliver

The House of Belonging by David Whyte

Favorite Poems Old and New by various

Get enough sleep.

Get a massage whenever you can and do self-massage daily. Even if you don’t get to a full body self-massage every day, which I highly recommend, at least do a foot massage right before bed. Some warm sesame oil and a drop or two of Lavender essential oil massaged into your feet will send you into blissful slumber.

Practice positivity. Focus your thoughts and speech on “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” This is found in Philippians 4:8.

Spend time processing your day: thinking about and journaling about it. According to my HSP teacher, sensitive people need about two hours of alone time each day.

Take one day off per week. Does this sound impossible? I know, it’s pretty difficult for me as well. When I do it, my life is better. We all need adequate rest and time for recreational pursuits. Work on this one and I will too!

Use an aromatherapy diffuser near your desk while you work and in your bedroom at night. Turning it on for an hour or two at a time is a wonderful way to calm down your mind, emotions, and your whole body. Calming essential oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Black Spruce, Cypress, and Mandarin are a few to try, either individually or blend a few together.

That’s my list. I hope you find some useful tools to help you handle bouts of anxiety. I would love to hear about what things help you when you are feeling anxious.

And, finally, here is an aromatherapy blend to use in your aromatherapy diffuser.

Calming Blend For Anxiety

1 drop Vetiver

2 drops Black Spruce

2 drops Red Mandarin

3 drops Lavender

PS: Today’s title was taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

Needing Niaouli (Wellness Wednesday)

Every Tuesday, I go Live on Facebook and Instagram with my series “What Should I Do With My Oils?” and talk about one essential oil, its uses and benefits, and share a few recipes/blends as well. This week I shared about Niaouli, an EO that is super beneficial this time of year.

Niaouli: Latin binomial: Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole; Family: Myrtaceae; Parts used: Leaves; Aroma: Camphoraceous, fruity, warm, earthy, 

Safety concerns: Don’t put near the nose or face of infants and children under 5 years old; can cause breathing problems in infants and young children.

Therapeutic Applications: weak immune system, allergies, bronchitis, respiratory infections, chest infections, fungal infections, mental fatigue.

Three blends/recipes:

Sore throat recipe: 1 drop Frankincense, 1 drop Niaouli, 1/2 teaspoon Jojoba oil. Rub on front of throat and back of neck.

Breathe Clear Blend: 6 drops Niaouli, 3 drops Cypress, 3 drops Spike Lavender. Diffuse for 1-2 hours at a time.

Allergy Lotion Blend: 15 drops Niaouli, 9 drops Lavender, 5 drops Eucalyptus Radiata, 8 drops Lemon, 8 drops Scots Pine in a 1 oz bottle of lotion. Apply lotion to neck, chest, and upper back.

I also wanted to recommend an aromatherapy book that I refer to often that you might want to consider for your home library. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit contains plenty of history and lore connected with plants, as well as information on essential oils to use for emotional and mental well-being.