As I read through all the tips below one thing becomes abundantly clear, know yourself! This time of year is stressful for so so many reasons that have nothing to do with holidays; the days are shorter, it’s colder, we’re wearing more clothes, carrying around more stuff and we are living our lives as though this time of year is the same energetically as summer. It’s not. Then you add crowed stores, over eating, family drama, loneliness, gift giving stress and travel to the mix…. it’s a wonder any of us make it through this time even if you love the holidays and have a perfect family! Slow down, understand the signals your body is throwing at you and LISTEN to them! As Aurora said in last month’s blog, “Trust your body: it is so wise, it will tell you what it needs!”
So, take a look at what Team Freed has to say about taking care of yourself through this time. We wish you the best of luck and are here when you just need to let it all go!
1. Get a massage!
Elizabeth Goldberg, LMT
Ok, I see how this could sound a little self-serving so let me rephrase. Treat Yo Self.
During the season of giving and charity, it is all too easy to forget to be kind the person most important to your own well-being: you.
In the iconic Parks and Recreation Treat Yo Self episode they offer the following options: clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas, fine leather goods. The character of Donna even gets acupuncture! (Aurora promises you that you will never, ever, have that many needles in your face at once.)
Getting a massage - or whatever form of self-care serves you best - ensures that you are taking care of you in a concrete way. Should it feel too self-indulgent, how about inviting a friend or loved one to join you? Sharing an experience of renewal can certainly reap its own benefits. A restorative yoga class, concurrent massage sessions, pedicures, theatre tickets, or even a relaxed evening at home with pizza, beer, and a movie could all fit the bill.
I will put in this plug for massage though: it’s an opportunity to be taken care of by someone whose only interest for that time is your comfort and well-being (not even to mention being devoid of holiday music of any type). It’s a pretty powerful feeling to receive physically and energetically; and one that, as a massage therapist, I feel great gratitude to provide for others.
2. Put the July into December
Aries Indenbaum, LMT
The holidays can be a total joy, or a total humbug. The difference, for me, is in the sun.
When I was younger, I associated the holidays as feeling stuck and trapped. I would come home after college and spend the first few days in bed, reaping the viral rewards of weeks of intense stress. But as an adult, with far fewer finals, I found I still had serious humbugs about coming home for the holidays. When trying to puzzle out why I was so tetchy, I noticed how significantly the holidays deviated from my normal routine. I spent most of my time indoors, alone with my parents. My parents are awesome, wonderful people whom I love dearly, but are significantly older than I am, and tend to have more sedentary hobbies.
The hardest part of changing my behavior was recognizing the host of activities that I do to keep myself in a state of dynamic equilibrium. I needed to create time for myself - to be outside, to be alone, to receive bodywork, to run, to dance, cook, and be a social animal. All of those demands fit into my normal life, but the minute I touched down at SFO I would forget all these little things I do to be a bearable human. As I’ve tried to make some conscious changes to bring July into December, I feel much more positively about the time.
1. I go outside at least twice a day.
2. I go to new places regularly.
3. I take time to be alone.
4. I build time to connect to my parents that feels most meaningful.
I also changed my default during the holidays. Rather than assuming that all my time is shared family time, I specifically block out times with my parents. By being more autonomous over the holidays, I’ve been able to be my outdoorsy, extroverted self, and in our intentional time together, my parents and I have found new ways to connect, we go to the Dickens Fair at Cow Palace, and visit the de Young, Golden Gate Park and go to the Point Reyes farmers market. I love hearing my dad practice bass, and chill with my mom while she finishes up her christmas cards. We often just go for long walks, and spend time enjoying being together. And we watch the Dr. Who Christmas Special (and my father accepts my mother and I jeering Clara, and crowing over her hopeful demise / departure)
This year has been a difficult one for my family -- my grandmother became ill, and recently passed -- and over that time, many of my family meetings have been... stressful. I’m genuinely excited for the holidays this year, to recharge and appreciate my family, and show them the love that I feel for them. After I get my sun time in, every morning.
3. Create your own traditions to battle the shame and pain of expectations
Asha Gray, LPC
Depending what you grew up with and where you are in your life the holidays aren't always the happiest time of the year. Surrounded by images of families and glad tidings can be rough if your far from home or alone. Heck even if you are Santa's #1 elf the holidays can be stressful. But it needn't be. Regardless of the traditions you grew up with, memories you may have of holidays past and anxieties about those coming you can choose to create new traditions and hopefully shepherd in peace for the upcoming year. The major themes of the holiday season are compassion, sharing and doing good deeds. How can you find ways to include these in your life over the next couple months in ways that make you feel empowered, special and happy? Here are some suggestions to get you started.
• Invite your friends together for a potluck dinner
• make a meal for those in your area who wouldn't have access otherwise
• volunteer at a soup kitchen
• spend time with senior's at a senior center or
• start a toy/ pet food drive at your place of employment
Those are just a few of hundreds of new traditions you could adopt. I wish you the best of luck with finding the right ones for you.
4. Skip it!
Aviva Pittle, LMT
Holidays can be rough, especially for people who have a complicated relationship with religion or their families, or who are struggling with depression or other challenges at a time when everyone is supposed to be joyful. Self-care is great, and it's wonderful when being extra gentle with yourself lets you enjoy the season and the people you spend it with, but sometimes all the self-care in the world can't make an unhealthy environment okay for you. I know I have an uncle I won't spend time with anymore, and I manage to be elsewhere for any gathering he's going to be at. I also skip Thanksgiving despite a healthy dose of guilt from my family every year, because I'd rather gather with loved ones and celebrate the harvest without also celebrating colonialism.
I don't want to downplay the difficulty of saying no to people who expect something of you. And, while it's tempting to say that people who truly care about you will want you to make the decisions that are best for you, I know it's not always that simple. But I encourage you to put those expectations aside for long enough to think about what's truly best for you, and whether getting it is worth any potential fall-out. If it's unhealthy for you to observe (a) particular holiday(s) or to celebrate them with particular people, give yourself permission not to. It's okay to take care of yourself in whatever way you need, and if that means sitting this one out, go for it.
5. Be Aware of Over-Sitting
Frances Reed, LMT
First you spend a few hours in the car or a plane, then you get to Grandma’s house and, after all the hugs, you find a place on the couch and sit again. Then, it’s time for the main attraction: the meal. So you load up your plate and sit at the table for a few hours. Then dinner is over and football or naps or rousing conversation begin... all on the most comfortable furniture available. Low and behold, you are sitting again!! This time can be filled with love and laughter but it’s also filled with some serious body agitation.
Simple suggestion to change the holidays? Stand & Move!
Often, as you sit the lower back arches uncomfortably, your shoulders roll forward, and your abdomen is compressed by the slump. When you stand up and move, your body has the opportunity to right itself. Stand up straight, shoulders back, pelvis tucked, and take a few deep breaths. Your spine stacks, your psoas stretches out, your shoulders go back, you upper ribs and pects allow more air into your lungs, the space in your abdomen increases allowing for happier digestion... and all of this releases endorphins to help you stay happy and alert.
Resist the urge to become one with the arm chair after that huge meal. Go for a walk to catch up with relatives, take your niece to the playground, stand for the 2nd and 4th quarters of the game, or impress the whole family by volunteering for dish duty! Whatever your cherished activities of the holidays are, look for ways to do them in anything other than a sitting position.
6. Know Your Boundaries and Honor Them
Beandrea Davis, LMT
Skin is the largest organ in the body. It provides an essential boundary between that which is inside of us and that which is not, and its health is vital to overall well being. When we get a scratch or a cut immediately our immune system begins sending defensive agents to the site of the wound to repair the breach.
We also have an emotional skin. The emotions and body sensations we feel are the nervous system's defense mechanism that kicks in when a wound occurs. How we feel lets us know if a boundary has been crossed or maintained.
For example, through years of trial and error I have learned that I enjoy visiting my parents at their house in Connecticut for a maximum of 4 days. Any longer than that and my emotional gas tank plummets to empty. It is also smart for me to receive some bodywork before and after the trip.
Don’t get me wrong. I love and appreciate my highly extroverted parents, and in many ways this boundary has nothing to do with them personally. Rather it has everything to do with who I am: a sensitive introvert who needs time to recharge and reflect in her own space in order to feel good.
I know that I am outside of healthy boundaries when I feel depressed, overly tired, frustrated, and of course the big red buzzer called Anger. I know that I am honoring my boundaries when I feel balanced. I wake up refreshed from a night of sleep. I show up in my life with energy and a can-do attitude. I feel at peace and content.
I invite you to take some time to reflect as the holiday season approaches: Where in my life do I feel out of balance? Where do I feel a sense of balance? What activities and behaviors help me feel well? What activities and behaviors diminish my life force? Who are the people contributing to me feeling out-of-whack and agitated, and who are the people who help me feel steady and peaceful?
In other words, what do you need?
Identifying and setting boundaries, especially with our loved ones, is not easy. But it comes down to this: If you are tired and agitated, you have less to offer the people in your life. If you are balanced and content you are more able to be a loving presence for the people in your life. With courage, clarity, and compassion as guides, our limits can actually liberate us and the people we cherish.