Sometimes I notice that certain themes jump out at me when I am reading through various discussions. Maybe it's coincidental, or maybe it's the holidays, but for whatever reason, self-care is definitely the theme of the week!
I find that, so often, when people are dealing with chronic conditions, they discuss the challenges of managing stress, and the emotions that go along with it, like anger, sadness, fear, frustration… and others. While stress can come from a lot of different directions, one of the major causes can be boiled down to simply not taking care of yourself. And those who aren't taking good care of themselves are generally taking care of others instead.
It seems to me that lack of self-care is especially prevalent during the holidays.
I'd like to first present you with an interesting analogy that I heard at a conference. It goes something like this:
When you are on a flight that is about to take off, the flight attendant directs you to place your own oxygen mask on before you attend to anyone else. Now, isn’t this advice that we can give to ourselves in other areas of life? The truth of the matter is, if we are physically, spiritually, emotionally depleted, we aren’t going to have a lot to offer anyone else.
Having said that, here are some ideas to keep in mind, for the holidays, and beyond:
Keep your schedule reasonable. Are there events that you can say no to? Or can you go and leave early? Running from one event, and responsibility, to the next can be exhausting. Let yourself say no to requests that may be too physically or emotionally taxing. Instead of forcing yourself to be the life of every party, give yourself permission to be the party of no.
Don’t force yourself to be super_______ (woman, man, adult child, spouse, etc. Could this be the year when someone else is in charge of the school or neighborhood holiday party? What if you enlisted some help from friends, family, children, instead of doing everything yourself. It may feel like your ego is at stake, but so is your well-being. You don't have to do all the work. Set limits.
Avoid getting too caught up in giving, giving, giving. Make sure that you schedule time for yourself, to do things you enjoy. Even if it is ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, to take a break that is only about you. Give yourself ample opportunity to recharge in the midst of the chaos.
Protect yourself. You are going to be tempted from all sides. Make sure that you are compliant with your meds, watch what you eat (and drink). Who needs the consequences of an out of control diet? In other words, the holiday vacation doesn’t extend to your health regimen.
Keep your emotional support team handy. Make sure that you have access to supportive people that you can reach out to as necessary. Let them know how you’re doing. Take terms “venting” if you need to release your frustrations. Ask them to help you to gain some perspective before you jump back into the festivities. (It’s your secret…)
Keep your expectations realistic. The holidays are a time of high expectations — we are surrounded by images of radiant smiles, joyful laughter, good cheer. But is this reality? Don't force yourself to be in a state of bliss. Let yourself appreciate the moments of enjoyment, appreciate the people in your life for who they are, remind yourself that they're all trying to make the holidays and enjoyable time but we're all who we are. The holidays don't magically change reality into something it isn't.
It’s holiday time. Buckle your seat belt and have your oxygen mask ready. Make sure your self-care strategy is in place. Now, enjoy!
This is just meant to be a starting place. Any suggestions for self-care that you want to share?
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