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“Silver Bells” * sung by Stevie Wonder
City sidewalks
Busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling like Christmas

Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hearSilver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day<
Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch
See the kids bunch
This is Santa’s big scene
And above all this bustle you hearSilver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day

The holidays are intended for families and special friends to come together and celebrate.  However, the commercialism of the Holiday season has filtered in, causing us much more stress than pleasure during these days.  The calendar of events and parties have us rushing and bustling about.  Our healthy diets are tossed aside and our sleep patterns are often overlooked.  It is a recipe for burn-out for many of us. The good news is that we can change the way we approach the celebrations and make sure that we are taking care of our needs during this hectic time.  Christmas is for giving.  This year, give to yourself first in order to be emotionally and physically satisfied to give to others.

I clearly remember the first time I boarded a plane.  I was nervous as I sat down and buckled in, as instructed.  It was then that the flight attendants began the speech about what to do in the event of an emergency.  This was an eye-opening moment for me, as they stated, if we lost cabin pressure, an oxygen mask would come down in front of us and that we should put on our mask first!  I was in shock over this.  It is part of who I am to take care of those around me first. I could see myself bouncing out of my seat to go to help the little old man across the aisle or the little girl, two seats ahead of me. It was then that I realized, that if I didn’t take care of myself first, I would not have any “life” to give to others.  I  had an epiphany on the plane that day.  In fact, it was the beginning of a “self-care movement” for me.

Here are 5 tips to help you to begin your self-care during this most wonderful time of year.

1. Give yourself permission

It is natural when you begin to switch your thoughts to self-care  to feel guilty, irresponsible or even selfish.  You need to give yourself permission.  Allow yourself to do “whatever” it is that you want.  If you want to say “no” to a certain event, or “no” to overspending on gifts, or “no” to hosting an event, give yourself the right to do what is best for you.  This is the beginning of self-care.  Learn to value the importance of setting boundaries. Slow down from the hustle and bustle and ask yourself, what do I want to gain during the holiday season this year?  How can I make that happen?  What do I value most?  What type of traditions are important to me, that I wish to maintain?

2. Involve all of your senses

We don’t spend much time thinking of our senses. Our senses are important avenues for self care.  For example, think of the smell of an apple pie baking in the oven, this smell alone can bring back specific memories . Perhaps it will remind you of a time when you were younger and your mother made home made pie.  When we invoke our senses, we experience things on different levels.  Think of ways to include sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing into your self care.  In a cooking class I was in, the chef had us smell the different spices and smell the food as it was simmering on the stove-top. The enjoyment that was experienced during the preparation time continued as we ate, tasting the different flavors in the finished meal. Have a candlelight bubble bath scented with aromatic products. Sit and watch your favorite holiday movie while wrapped up in a soft blanket. Play music that is relaxing.  Experiment with ways to incorporate all of your senses during times of refreshing for your body and soul.

3. Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of the season

Plan ahead and designate specific time frames for the tasks that you need to complete or the functions that you will attend. This will give you time for mental preparation, allowing you to not be overwhelmed.  The malls and stores are extremely active at certain times of the day and week.  If possible, plan your shopping time during quieter hours, such as weekday mornings.  Shop online in the privacy of your home to avoid crowds all together.  When you do plan to be out in the crowds, calm your mind and body before going.  Realize that you don’t have to rush.  Take your time and enjoy the shopping process.  Often times, by changing our perspective of the situation, we can approach things with calmness.  We do not need to become part of the holiday frenzy.  Create a sense of peace and joy, true holiday feelings, inside your mind and spirit.

4. Do things in moderation

This is the time of the year where it is easy to over-indulge.  We find it easy to neglect healthy eating.  Sleeping patterns may be altered as we have more activity in our days.  We can over spend on gifts for those on our lists. The list of things that seem to trap us in extravagance may differ from person to person, however, it is common to be swept up into excessive behavior. Aristotle wisely stated, “all things in moderation.”  This is an excellent gauge for us to recall.

5. Give up expectations

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The holidays, particularly Christmas, can set us up for unrealistic expectations. It almost seems a “magical” time of year and we dream of the perfect holiday.  Many people struggle with depression and high anxiety over the holidays.  The crisis hotlines have an increase in calls.  Domestic violence rises.  Not everyone you meet is having a “Merry Christmas.”  Perhaps, you are one of the ones that struggle the most.  Past experiences, the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job or financial difficulty all seems to heighten during this time of year.  One of the best ways to take care of yourself during this emotionally trying time, is to give up your expectations of the perfect family with the perfect tree while hosting the perfect parties with the perfect gifts.  This type of thinking is extremely damaging to you.  As you relinquish these ideas, you are able to open yourself up to experiencing greater joy in the reality of the moment.  Let go of false illusions and celebrate the moment.  Whereever you are in your life this year, take care of yourself first.  Practice self-love abundantly  This truly is the only way to experience the true meaning of Christmas.

May peace, joy, love and happiness be yours today and throughout the year!

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Featured photo credit: Cute girl is happy to see snowflakes via Shutterstock

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