It is the most time of the year – the most festive, the most colorful, the most wonderful, the most expectation-laden, the most celebrated, the most social, the most nostalgic, and, in many ways, the most emotional time of the year.
A few weeks ago, on her podcast, Glennon Doyle talked about this concept of the holidays as being the MOST of whatever season of life we are traversing through.
For example, if we are grieving, it’s often at these times that grief feels the heaviest. Or if we are celebrating a new joy, like a new baby or health milestone, that joy is supercharged. If we find ourselves somewhere in between, straddling happiness and heartache, both of these things feel like amplified versions of themselves, the most happy and the most hurt, all in the same moment.
Heading into the holidays this year, I am giving myself unlimited soul-care permission slips to hold space for all of this “most-ness”.
In order to bring mindfulness to my moments, I’m constantly catching myself repeating old patterns and choosing to replace them with more loving thoughts and behaviors. Of course, changing any pattern is never linear, so as much as I’m noticing when I’m spiraling, I’m gently reminding myself to get back on course. And then I forget, and then remind myself again… and on and on we go.
I thought I’d share some of my top “re-route” strategies so that they can serve as little candles of hope and gentle reminders as you navigate the rest of this holiday season.
This truth is inspired, of course, by Glennon Doyle (again). In her podcast, she talked about the importance of tradition, but how we must approach our holiday traditions with the knowledge that our needs trump tradition, every time.
As dynamic, shifting beings, we have to constantly revise our holiday traditions to make sure that they actually work for and support the current version of ourselves. Prioritizing nostalgia is meaningful, but if you are sticking to tradition by sacrificing your inner peace, the balance is precariously off.
As someone who deeply cherishes the worn-in, cozy comfort of holiday traditions – I have had to work extremely hard to embrace this permission slip. I have learned to stop forcing myself to do things that come at the expense of my mental and physical health “for tradition’s sake”; the cost of doing so is just too high and so it is not something I’m willing to do anymore. I’m learning to live in a mindset that honors and respects the high value I place on holiday traditions, but that places an even higher value on loving and accepting myself and my needs, exactly as I am, right here, right now.
As Glennon so eloquently put it, what if the new tradition became meeting yourself, and your family, with what you need right now? What if the new tradition was moving parts to match the “now you”, instead of forcing yourself into places that no longer feel right or nourishing?
At the end of the day, if I don’t take good care of myself, I can’t take good care of anyone else. I know that being a good wife, sister, friend and daughter all require that I be a good self-steward first. For me, soul-care-centered self-stewardship is rooted in taking loving care of my nervous system.
Knowing that I am a highly sensitive empath who is intensely sensitive to energy flow allows me to prioritize the time and space I need to come back into my mind and body when I’ve been around a lot of people or stimuli. When my nervous system is maxed out, overactive, and overstimulated, everything feels more difficult.
I know this feeling well, and I know that the best way for me to meet this feeling with love and comfort is to stop the spinning, the overthinking and solving, and instead to soothe my system with nothingness. When I desperately want to speed up to escape or fix overwhelm, I know I need to slow down.
I’ve learned that the antidote for overwhelm is nothingness, and that I simply cannot take good care of myself if I don’t prioritize regular rest periods throughout my day and plan my week’s activities accordingly. I purposely include times in my schedule where “doing nothing”, other than re-calibrating my nervous system, is my only expectation.
I love the concept from Brene Brown of not necessarily using the word “boundaries” when communicating your needs. So often that word can make us (and others!) bristle with anxiety.
I like to use the phrases, “this is okay” and “this is not okay” instead. It is an excellent tool to help soften and clarify boundaries when having these big conversations with loved ones.
For example, if your family members have strong opinions about how you manage your chronic health condition, you might say,
“Mom, I love you so much. I am so grateful for how much you care about my health and my pain. It’s totally okay for you to think about me, worry about me, and care about me as I navigate healing. What doesn’t work for me and what I’m not okay with is you telling me what you think I should do. It’s okay for you to talk to Dad about that, or your friends, but it is not okay to bring up with me unless I ask for your advice.”
Boundary conversations are tricky with a capital T, but I really like this soft dialogue that creates a more dynamic conversation where you can both express gratitude and your very valid limits in the same sentence.
The “Joy, Now” (my words of 2020!) lessons just keep on coming in my life, and this reframe has definitely been a new phase of strengthening my ability to lean into resilient joy with grace and confidence through my health ups and downs.
During the holidays especially, it is so easy to wake up every day feeling bogged down by everything you “need to do”; weighed down by the things that you didn’t get to the day before, or the day before that. There are always action items on that list that are important, however, when I sprinkle some of my “want to do’s” onto my “need to do” list, it gives me more energy and motivation to get the “need to do’s” done.
Some of these “want to do’s” look like baking a yummy treat with my husband, doing a one-song-only dance party, reading a book with a warm mug of holiday tea, going outside to breathe some fresh air at sunset. Many of these are small things that take almost no time, but the rewards are huge.
Trust that prioritizing your joy creates energy for you to tackle the less joyful obligations you have to do. Trust that making your joy a non-negotiable part of every single day, through tiny pockets of okay, is worthwhile.
In the moments where your best doesn’t feel like “enough”, SCRIPT some kind and reassuring messages to sweetly feed your mind. Remember with compassion that feelings are not always facts.
Know that sometimes, the most courageous thing you can do, is allow the emotional storms that come your way to roll on through, and shield yourself as best as possible with an umbrella of loving, comforting, kind thoughts.
When your inner critic is telling you all the ways you are not enough, practice being the soft, gentle voice that whispers back, “there is nothing wrong with you”.
When you feel overwhelmed, send yourself loving thoughts that remind you, “you are still loved even when you feel like you’re at your worst.
Repeatedly extend yourself the same love and forgiveness you would to someone you love, going through the same thing, and know deeply that you can and will get to the other side of any challenge you are facing; because you always have before, and you always will.
All my love,
I share each step along my road to wellness and healing and hope that in doing so I can inspire you along your own path. Thank you so much for being here.
Natalie, this has given me so much hope for the Christmas season this year. Thank you for these wonderful words! This has given me a renewed sense of motivation for the holidays, knowing that I can do hard things, and that taking it slow and allowing myself to give my body what it needs is most important. Thank you 😊 @migraine_believer
This makes me so happy to hear! Sending you gentle love as you courageously do what you need to do to take care of you, and show up for as many pockets of precious joy as possible along the way!