I wrote a brief article for my husband’s newsletter just in time for the 2018 Christmas Holidays. The concept is great for caregivers and those in the “Sandwich Generation” every day of the year. Here it is, for the good of the cause!
The Best Gift Ever
Holiday time again! Rushing about, getting the house ready, decorating, cooking, attending work parties, holiday cards to buy, create and send out, neighborhood parties, buying gifts, wrapping gifts. And if your house has elves… Well, you know what that means. Time seems to fly and stress seems to soar to exponential heights. And as the stress piles up, the “Joy of Season” seems to dissipate like the helium out of a balloon that snagged on a sharp edge.
And there we are, flat on the ground.
Many of us run around at top speed trying to do it all a great deal of the time. During the holidays, though, it really feels compounded. There are quite a few expectations and quite a few triggers.
Our bodies, though, likely don’t know it is a special time that will soon pass. Our bodies just keep taking the hit. For me it is the neck area. I know I am feeling extra stress when my shoulders seem to be touching my ear lobes. Sometimes getting a full breath is a chore. And my eyes are tired from lack of good sleep. But like a lot of folks, I have always kept up the pace. Kept pushing along to get it all done.
Not a great way to show up in the world, is it?
Over the last few years, I have been focused on Self-Care. Specifically, I’ve been focused on Self-Care for caregivers, but at the Holiday time, most of us find ourselves in need of Self-Care. We need it, because without it, it is nearly impossible to receive and give joy. How can an empty vessel pour out more? How can a car on “empty” make it to the family gathering (although not making it might feel like the best of Self-Care!)
Indeed, like the flight attendants tell us, we must “put on our own Oxygen Mask first.”
There are plenty of websites that can give you ideas about Self-Care. There are quite a few videos that speak to different kinds of self-care. Shameless promotion, here, check out www.TapwithBrad.com for some great self-care videos. What is most important is recognizing that we are worthy and deserving of self-care. We can put ourselves first. There is time in everyday to do at least one thing to care for ourselves, and it is the best gift we can give our families.
If you have children or young ones you are close to, know that they learn best by watching you. As parents, teachers and caring adults, we spend a lot of time telling kids what to do. But in my years as a parent and as a school psychologist, I can assure you, children learn by example. In my work in schools I met a lot of parents. Even if they looked nothing like their child, I could pick them out with great certainty. Mannerisms and ways of speaking give great clues, but it is also the mindset and habits that reveal the influence of adults on children.
So what are the young ones in your life learning about Self-Care? We fear that we might take time away from those who need us, but our children need our example. Think about times you may have heard a child say something bad about themselves like, “I’m so stupid!” It hurts to hear it! But do they hear that in how we talk about or to ourselves? If we see a child hitting themself because they are upset, we want to stop it. But do they witness us harming ourselves in some way?
This holiday, give the best gift ever to your family and friends. Show them how much you care for them by caring for yourself. And, you can also teach them about self-care, as well. Get creative – make a coupon, arrange an activity, start a new tradition. Your family and friends will benefit as much as you do.
Essential & Quick Self-Care practices (in addition to tapping!):
1. Exercise – get outside if possible. Vitamin D from the sun is critical for our systems. If you can’t get outside and you don’t have a home gym – Dance! Find a free video on your phone or laptop. There are plenty of quick exercise or dance videos to get your blood moving and heart racing.
2. Hydrate – drink plenty of clean water daily. Limit or eliminate caffeine. Limit or eliminate alcohol. Limit or eliminate sugary drinks. Can’t say enough about drinking good water everyday. Simple – but lots of us forget to do it.
3. Sleep – This cannot be overstated as an essential of Self-Care. Quiet, dark and cool rooms are best.
4. HUGS! – Hug your family and friends (with their permission) just for the health of it. Your body produces hormones when in contact with others. Acts of compassion and caring also produce healthy hormones. With kids – healthy hugs (again – with permission) are vital to growth.
5. Massage – if you can’t afford a great massage, this is another way to provide loving tough to a loved one, and receive one in return. Neck, shoulders, feet and hands are all great spots for a quick massage.
6. Sugar Scrubs & Moisturizing– you can buy a good body scrub or make your own. Add essential oils to enhance the experience. Scrub hands, feet, and elbows. After a scrub or bath or shower, be sure to moisturize. Our skins are our body’s largest organ! Caring for your skin can improve well-being in a variety of ways.
7. Gratitude – make a practice of gratitude. This is a wonderful practice for families. What we focus on, persists. Why not focus on what is right in the world, what works, what brings us joy?
8. Journaling – Journaling is a great way to get thoughts out of our heads. If you have trouble sleeping, try writing out your worries and anxieties before you go to bed.
9. Unplug – I love technology. I do NOT believe it is the enemy, but I know it can become an addiction, as well. Every time we play a video game, play a game on our phone or scroll through social media, we are seeking a dopamine hit to our brains. Limit your intake. Set a timer.
10. Brain food – Eat well, certainly, but also consider what you feed your brain in what you consume with your ears and eyes. As a news junkie, I have to limit how much I consume everyday and take frequent breaks. When I actively put good stuff in my head – music, audiobooks, reading, art – my stress levels go way down.
Self Care Self-Assessment:
Take a deep breath, consider how you are feeling inside. Rate yourself on a scale of 0 -1 0 on how well you practice self care in general, with 0 being “not at all” to 10 being “I practice self-care daily”.
For most of us, we probably care for ourselves in fits and spurts – sometimes well, and at other times, not so much. If you could make one shift in your life to put yourself first and care for yourself on a consistent basis, what would that action be?
Often, the best way to make a change is to start small, but focus on consistency. Small changes, done consistently, over time, tend to yield lasting results.
So, ready to make a commitment? What small change can you take on this next week to better care for yourself?
“This week I will ____________________________________________________________________________