I’m feeling pretty chaotic this week, and I’ve fallen face-first into a cycle of unnecessary indulgence.
I sat down to write a piece about mindfulness during the holidays. I hoped to give practical advice for staying healthy and centered during a period of chaos and indulgence. I wanted to write something accessible and true-to-life that might bring a little peace to my readers.
However, as I sit here with my third cup of strong coffee—not for the day, just for this sitting—munching on a sugarcoated chocolate chip scone the size of my hand, I have to face the fact: I’m not feeling healthy or centered.
I live most of the year in Yellowstone National Park, where I am far away from all things tempting. I have absolute control over my surroundings, and I have miles of peace in all directions. During the winter months, my husband, my toddler and I come to stay with his parents in Chicago, near where my parents also live.
With the holiday season upon us, I am seriously seduced by sugar and shopping.
Under normal circumstances, I pride myself on eating healthy, maintaining a minimalist lifestyle and holding on tight to my money, but this week I find myself enchanted by delicious refreshments and beautiful things. Here, between the big, tall buildings, allurements lay at every turn.
The thing is, the more I eat and the more I buy, the worse I actually feel. The worse I feel, the more my routines start crumbling. In just a matter of days, I started spending less time on my yoga mat, I stopped drinking enough water, I stopped doing my evening thankfulness ritual. I even stopped flossing my teeth.
In fact, the more I concede to “giving myself a break,” the more I feel like I need one. The more I choose to “treat myself,” the more I realize that I’m not really treating myself right.
I have to break this cycle.
Lately, I have noticed that we often equate the concept of “self-care” with “treating ourselves,” and sometimes that is the case. Sometimes comfort and rest are just what our bodies need. Sometimes pajamas and a pint of ice cream are the best thing for us. But not always.
Self-care is so much bigger than that. It involves deep reflection and pertinent action. It is complicated and ever changing.
Determining what will best serve us is the heart and soul of self-care, and determining what we need is never easy. Even when it looks like Netflix and junk food, it is actually the opposite of pure indulgence.
Self-care is an act of responsibility.
Today, I seek to stop my unhealthy holiday cycle by asking myself what I need. What can I do to take care of myself today? What can I do to feel self-love? What can I do to let that scone/that purchase/that skipped workout be just a poor choice, and not something that defines me?
You see, I have been down this road. I know the things that do not help me get back on track. I know that berating myself and feeling guilty only feeds the cravings beast. I know that trying to overhaul my whole life in a singe day leads to certain burn out. I know that aiming for perfection guarantees disappointment.
I can’t add momentum to the pendulum’s swing; instead, I must find a way to be still, to accept myself, to be where I am today.
Reframing my healthy actions as “taking care of myself” is helpful for me. It takes some of the pressure off and diffuses some of the guilt. It encourages me to take baby steps and be proud of them. It helps me feel a bit better already.
Just like I take care of my daughter each day, just like I meet my important deadlines, just like I wash the dishes or do the laundry, taking care of my self is another hum-drum, fundamental and essential, boring-but-beautiful chore.
What’s on my self care to-do list today?
1. Drink water—I chugged 16 ounces.
2. Take my vitamins.
3. Spend 20 minutes on my mat—even if I just lie there.
4. Eat a healthy lunch and dinner, and really try to not eat sweets.
5. Figure out a budget and make a plan for the rest of my holiday shopping.
Tomorrow, my goal will be to do a little bit better than I did today.
I’m left thinking about that famous quote by John Mroz—the one always plastered on coffee mugs:
“Peace is not the absence of chaos or conflict, but rather finding yourself in the midst of that chaos and remaining calm in your heart.”
Self-care is not insulating ourselves from unhealthy choices, but rather finding ourselves in the midst of indulgence and making the choice that best serves us.
During the chaos of this holiday season, give yourself the gift of care. Pause under the mistletoe, plant a metaphoric kiss on your heart, and ask yourself: What can I do for you today?
Author: Nico Wood Kos
Volunteer Editor: Alicia Wozniak; Editor: Toby Israel