Self care is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself. It can also be one of the most difficult for many people.
The great majority of people it seems are consumed with taking care of others. Making sure that other people are happy. Allowing people to treat them in any way they want in order to make sure the other person is happy. They don’t want to rock the boat and make someone upset, so they go along to get along.
Peoplw who have suffered trauma of any kind are even more likely to do for others instead of themselves. These people many times do not feel they deserve or are worthy of care or that they should take care of themselves instead of others.
We all deserve to love ourselves and take care of us. The things we do to take care of ourselves do not have to be big things. Having time to ourselves. Enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. Getting a massage or a new hair cut. Writing or keeping a journal. Taking a nap. Taking a walk. The list is endless.
It is also okay to say no to other people. No to doing things you don’t want to or don’t feel up to. No to things that make you uncomfortable or feel under valued. No to things that damage your mental health. In truth, you can say no about anything. If you can get past the need to please or pacify others and accept that it is okay to do what you need, what you want, what helps you love yourself.
Everyone needs self care. Including counselors. It can be very hard for counselors to feel okay about taking time off and taking care of themselves. But it is important for them and for their clients.
The holidays can be stressful for many reasons, but not practicing your own self care doesn’t have to be one of them. Take time for yourself this holiday season to refresh and renew your own spirit, so you can feel up to giving the Christmas spirit to others.
In general, the commercials, the photos, the cards for Thanksgiving all depict the same kinds of scenes. Lots of food and family all smiling and happy and thankful. While this is true for many, for some Thanksgiving is a very stressful time of year for a wide variety of reasons.
Unresolved family trauma is a very real thing that rears its ugly head at the holidays. Long held beliefs about where one fits or doesn’t fit into their family come to the surface. Continued abuse either emotional, verbal, or physical find their way out during the holidays. Sometimes, just being in the same room with someone is more than many people can bear.
Grief and loss affect Thanksgiving for many others. The holidays are powerful reminders of those we have lost either through death or the end of relationships. The waves of grief can be too much to surf with a room full of people expecting you to interact and have conversations.
Some people don’t have families. There are circumstances that can leave people alone. Truly alone. Feeling that and being bombarded with the images of Thanksgiving as this happy family holiday can be overwhelming for many of these people.
So how can one weather the Thanksgiving holiday if our lives do not resemble the “happy family Thanksgiving” presented to us on a daily basis? The focus must be on doing what is best for you, not what is expected.
* Do not feel pressured to attend any event. This can be very difficult with families due to the possible judgment (real or imagined) that can occur. You do not have to go at all. However, if you do go, you do not have to stay very long. Don’t go early. Possibly present yourself for the meal only and after it is over find a way to leave quietly. If the event is with friends but you are not feeling up to it for whatever reason (grief, loss, illness, etc.) you do not have to go.
* Be aware of your own feelings. If a Thanksgiving gathering makes you anxious, sad, depressed, overwhelmed or any other negative emotion notice it, acknowledge it, and if you feel you need to leave for your emotional health – leave.
* Limit alcohol consumption. At many Thanksgiving gatherings, alcohol is part of the event. When we are feeling anxious, sad, depressed, grieving, or emotions from the past come up, we can think that drinking more alcohol can dull those emotions. Many time it can have the opposite effect increasing them and also lessening inhibitions that can cause us to act or say things in ways we would not if we were sober. This can lead to arguments, fighting, and even physical confrontations.
* Avoid the drama. Don’t take the bait of judgmental comments made by others. Redirect conversations that are critical, political, or confrontational. Enforce and reinforce your own boundaries politely but firmly. If things get too heated or make you very uncomfortable, leave.
* Give to others. If a gathering of family or friends is not something you are looking forward to, maybe finding a way to give to others would be better for you. Help collect and distribute Thanksgiving meals or turkeys to those who don’t have them. Volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or other facility for those without families or homeless. Visit a nursing home to spend time with some older folks who may not have family.
* Self-Care. Whether you spend time with family, friends, others, or alone for Thanksgiving, find time for your own self-care. Do something you enjoy. Something that you find relaxing. Go for a walk, meditate, write, paint, take a bath, get some exercise, put on your pajamas and watch football or a favorite movie. Invest time in letting go of any stress that has built up throughout the day or the several days of the holiday (shopping can be stressful too). Take care of you.
Whatever your Thanksgiving holiday contains, I do hope that you find a way to recognize the things you have to be thankful for. If it is family and friends be thankful for that. If it is for pajamas and watching football be thankful for that. If it is for helping others and giving of yourself be thankful for that. If it is for opening your eyes to another day be thankful for that. Find your thanks where ever it is. It is okay, Thanksgiving isn’t for everyone, but being thankful is.
Every decision that people make is made because of fear. Read that again please.
Every decision, even NO decision, is made based on fear. The fear changes based on what you are trying to decide. But the fear questions we ask ourselves are pretty much the same regardless of the decision.
Changing jobs is a major fear decision for most people. They can be afraid of the change, afraid they do not know enough, afraid they may fail. Afraid that the job change will be the wrong choice.
Changing relationships is an even bigger fear for most people. They can be afraid of being alone, afraid of what the other person will do, afraid of letting go of their own codependence.
Changing one self is possibly the biggest fear of all. People can be afraid of who they will become if they change, what relationships they might lose, the unfamiliar of the unknown.
These fears can paralyze us into making no decision. They keep us stuck where we are unable to move, even if that move means something better for us. A better job, a better relationship, a better life. The fear keeps us bound to where we are like fear glue.
The decisions we make will change our lives. There will be a new normal to adjust to. A new way of living, of being. Each decision we make has a consequence, some are good and some are not. But one thing is certain, a decision will bring change if you stick with it.
Is there something in your life you want to change – a job, a relationship, your thoughts, your way of living? What is the fear that keeps you from making that decision? How will it affect your life if you do not make the decision? What will you continue to tolerate, endure, live with, ignore? Will you allow fear to keep you stuck?
There are two choices – make the decision or stay where you are. Sometimes we need someone to talk to about our fears and help us find the path to make a decision. Often, our past traumas can influence our fears if they remain unprocessed. This is where counseling can sometimes help to have an objective person to listen and provide the tools and skills for overcoming fear and making the decisions we need to make. But we first need to overcome our fear about going to counseling. One decision at a time.
“I just go with the flow.” How many times have you heard someone say that or have you said that to other people? Likely, it is more times than others have actually been going with the flow or that you have been going with the flow. It is a lot easier to say than to do on some days.
One can think they are going with the flow and just letting things happen. However, the moment you become distracted by or invested in surrounding events or emotions, you are not flowing. Any time you allow other people’s events or emotions to interfere in your emotions and thoughts, you are not flowing.
The definition of flow is a steady, continuous stream meaning uninterrupted and always moving. When we allow our negative emotions and thoughts to fill our daily lives, we are stopped with each one. We are not moving forward and we become stuck in sadness, in worry, in anger. We are unable to let these things pass and to keep moving. No matter how many times we say to ourselves and others that we just go with the flow, it is just words without action.
Another of the main reasons our flow is interrupted is that we cannot let go of the need for control. To be in control of ourselves and others. To be in control of events that surround us. To be in control of our traumas. It is a tremendous amount of work to maintain control all the time. It requires all of our focus and does not allow for flowing or moving.
So, how do we learn to flow more freely?
* Let go of the need for control
* Practice mindfulness, be aware
* Learn to breathe and pause more
* Practice letting go of negative thoughts and emotions
* Start with one thing at a time
* Increase your meditation time
* Accept change and imperfection
November, the month of Thanksgiving, in the United States. As with many other things in society, it has morphed into Thankful November where people record everything they re thankful for over the month sharing and posting and generally participating in being grateful. For a month. After this though, many people move away from thankfulness on a daily basis. It’s a temporary state of being rather than a changed way of living. It looks good on Instagram and Facebook, but it’s a once a day post generally about something big and then for the next 24 hours after it’s not a thought.
There are many books on the practice of daily gratitude. The words “daily gratitude” imply that the practice should be undertaken on a once a day basis like a multivitamin. I agree that incorporating any time daily on being thankful can be beneficial and can form a habit of daily gratitude if done repetitively. It can be incorporated into a daily meditation practice or other daily routine where it can be repetitively done. Even once a day is better than not at all.
What if we did it more than once a day? What if we did it about everything and not just the big things? What if we did it every day of our lives and not just a month out of the year? Change of thought processes, emotions, and habits is done by repetition and reinforcement. If we incorporate thankfulness into every moment of our lives then gratitude thoughts, emotions, and habits become automatic.
You can be thankful for anything and everything. It is easy to be thankful for big things – family, home, job, food, etc. It is fairly easy to be thankful for somewhat smaller things – favorite foods, video games, books, etc. It is somewhat harder to remember to be thankful for much smaller things – coffee, paper, ink pens, candles, slippers, etc. It is very hard to be thankful for things that are not good. Remember thankful in every moment means just that every moment – no matter what is happening or what the experience is. To be thankful that you are there to experience it, learn from it, grow from it, change from it, enjoy it, love it – every single thing in every single moment.
It is Thankful November and it is a good time to start or expand your thankfulness practice with the goal of continuing it, growing it, living it moment to moment. Speak it out, write it out, think it out – put your gratitude out into the universe for every moment and watch what comes back to you and how you change you thoughts, emotions, and habits as a result.