It’s no secret that the holidays aren’t for everyone.
If we’ve lost someone we love or are navigating any difficult challenge, those jewel-toned lights seem to illuminate all the imperfections in our lives.
Add the fact that for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s the darkest time of the year, and also one of the busiest times, with work holiday parties and the pressure to shop and deck all the halls. And then there’s the fact that it’s one of the most financially stressful times, with overspending abound and the abundance of sugary treats and extra alcohol that our bodies might not thank us for indulging in.
Despite the fact that nature is whispering slow down, for most of us, the holidays mean speeding up.
Which makes my holiday survival tool completely counterintuitive. Instead of slowing down in December, like the bare trees and early dusk suggest, I start adding things to my schedule.
I’m not talking about adding in Elf on the Shelf (despite my kids’ pleading), or making homemade cookies for each of my Facebook friends, or deciding that this is the year to start sending out holiday cards again. Instead, I’m talking about recommitting to self-care.
I find the holidays to be a blend of a handful of magical moments, crazily unrealistic expectations, excess stress, and bittersweet nostalgia. After trying different methods of coping, including grumping around for the entire month of December, the technique I’ve found that works best is to add in as much loving self-care as I can manage.
Last week, this meant I got up early to haul my butt to a 6:00 a.m. yoga class, and I scheduled a date night with my husband. This week, it means squeezing in as many heated lunchtime yoga classes as possible and treating myself to extra bubble baths with a book in the evenings. It means I’m huffing lavender, spending a lot of time in front of our light therapy lamp (which our family lovingly refers to as the Happy Light), and stretching out my neighborhood walks to three miles instead of two and a half.
It means I’m turning down a little bit of work and neglecting the stack of crusty dishes in the sink even more than usual to make room for self-care, so I can get through this time of year a bit more gracefully. It means I’m doing my best to eat at least five fruits and veggies every day when I really want to float in a small sea of melted cheese.
In this darkest, most hectic month, these acts of self-care feel like little globes of warm light. If I just keep stringing them together, one yoga class here, one bubble bath there, I know I can survive the season with my sanity somewhat intact.
And who knows, I might even catch some of that holiday cheer.