Holiday rash is picking this time around, when we are trying to meet the deadlines and accomplish as much as possible while getting ready for the holidays.
In the midst of all this chaos of running around, finding perfect gifts for everyone and planning perfect parties, it’s quite easy to forget about the most important person in your life – you!
Have you thought of presents for yourself yet? If not, I have a few suggestions for you, that don’t have to be material or require great financial or time investments, but self reflection and self kindness.
1.Self-care. And I am not talking just about some cliché things, like cucumber masks or bubble baths, although they can also be a part of self care practice. Self care can go far beyond that and include things like keeping your schedule sane, not overwhelming yourself with gazillions of choirs and responsibilities, protecting your personal boundaries and more. Engaging in self care is especially important when we are going through tough time and being vulnerable (and holiday season may exacerbate it). And it’s highly necessary for those of us working in the helping roles and supporting others – an absolute must to prevent a burnout and preserve your functioning and resilience.
2. Self-acceptance. Feeling inadequate and not good enough is a natural by-product of living in a society that values perfection and encourages competitiveness along with unrealistic expectations for ourselves and those around us.
Bombarding with “ideals” for any role we carry – as parents, professionals, partners or friends – makes us constantly compare ourselves to those unattainable standards, only to realize how short we fall from them.
One of the most apparent unrealistic standards is targeted towards our bodies. For decades, a multi-billion diet industry has been dictating how we should look like (and if we don’t, we absolutely must direct all our resources towards changing ourselves to reach these “standards”). This massive societal abuse, rooted in oppression, racism and misogyny, has been rejecting natural body diversity and damaging our body image and, as a result, relationship with food.
Even living in a white, able, average-size body didn’t immunize me from struggling with my body image for a large part of my life. And for those living in larger bodies, the experience of rejection, discrimination and weight stigma is much more pervasive.
To change the status quo of this absurd and unjust system, we should put forward efforts on various levels. And while not everyone can and need to be a public activist, we can start to act on individual levels, by refusing to conform to oppressive and damaging body standards and working on accepting our bodies the way they are.
This doesn’t mean we should stop taking care of ourselves – quite the opposite. It’s about accepting our natural body blueprint, respecting body needs and believing it worth nourishment, nurturing and kindness, regardless of its current weight or size.
3. Self compassion. How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake? What is your inner voice telling yourself in those moments? Is it using words of kindness and comfort or harsh judgment and criticism?
The term self-compassion can be quite confusing, as some may associate it with self pity and looking for excuses – which is quite different from being compassionate to yourself.
In her book “Self Compassion”, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a pioneering researcher of self-compassion, defines it as 3-elements aspect: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.
Practicing kindness towards yourself entails being not critical for your mistakes or shortcomings, but gentle. Embracing our humanity refers to the fact that suffering is a part of being a human, the part that connects us, rather than isolates. And being mindful to your pain, instead of ignoring it, is another piece of treating yourself with compassion and understanding, which are necessary for healing.
Learning to become more caring for, accepting of and compassionate towards ourselves may feel unnatural at first, since our cultural norms teach us to condemn ourselves rather than comfort. But with some practice, intention and dedication, it’s possible to achieve, giving ourselves the best gifts for optimizing our wellbeing, restoring balance and building resilience.