Treat yourself to a little TLC every day and reap the wellbeing benefits.
The therapy room has been busy again this week. It's a sign that you all need to relax at the end of what's been a peculiar year. This time of year is usually busy for most of us, as we plan for Christmas and arrange to meet our friends to exchange gifts.
However, this year has been very different, and I'm finding it stressful for very different reasons. Internet shopping has not gone as smoothly as I would have liked, and I anxiously wait for the last few presents to arrive. Meeting up, even for a socially distanced, dropping off gifts at the door of my grandchildren and my niece is causing me anxiety – but how do you explain to those beautiful little people who still believe in the magic of Christmas that Santa may be late this year? How do I tell them that Nanny/Auntie Sharon can't have a hug, or pop in and play?
And then there's finding time for ourselves amongst the madness …
Are you aware that you need to take better care of yourself, but then carry on regardless due to the busy-ness of life?
Self-care is something you need to be mindful of, and actively plan, rather than something that just happens. Here is some self-care inspiration you can use as a daily boost for your mind, body and soul as we navigate the stresses of Christmas, covid and the winter this year.
Being good enough
Self-care starts with being kinder to ourselves. If your best friend was doing the same as you, would you give her the same advice you would give yourself? Probably not! We are often our own worst critic – demanding more and expecting perfection, something we would not dream of asking anyone else to do.
The bad news is that if you are a perfectionist, then the chances are you always feel as if you could have done better or worked harder. The constant worrying and feeling that you're falling short of expectations can be exhausting, as well as undermining your confidence and self-esteem. Often, we strive for perfection as a way of keeping control, but 2020 has taught us that life is beyond our control, and sometimes we need to go with the flow.
If you notice these thoughts arising, sit with them in meditation and try to challenge them – what is driving them? Once you understand where they are coming from, you can reframe them. Try to adopt a 'good enough' approach which can help to relieve the pressure.
We can all be a little harsh on ourselves when we focus on our mistakes. When you experience feelings of guilt, please take a moment to notice what is triggering it. Is there something you can learn from it?
Brendan Burchard, the world's leading high-performance coach, sees guilt as a positive emotion as he believes there is always a reason and a lesson associated with this feeling. For example, is it a signal you are not honouring your traditions or values? If so, thank your guilt for providing you with this helpful information, and see what changes you need to make. Remind yourself that no-one is perfect, and be gentle and kind to yourself for doing the best you can.
Many modern-day gurus think we should be happy all the time. I believe this isn't easy to achieve, and neither should we strive to achieve it. Experiencing different emotions is all part of the journey. But that being said, the brighter moments are usually there, we just need to pay more attention to them. The path to happiness lies in seeing the bigger picture, through compassion, kindness and hope. Even on our most challenging days, it is still possible to choose our attitude, practice gratitude and retain a sense of our identity.
A positive outlook
Our brains have what psychologists call 'negativity bias', which means we pay more attention to negative stories and events more than positive ones. For our ancestors, this was a helpful response to danger; paying attention to environmental signals could save us from predators and life-threatening situations. But sadly, it means we also miss out on the small, ordinary joys that life brings with it.
Try to pay more attention to the good experiences and savour the fleeting moments of beauty that life holds. A hug from a loved one, a friendly smile in the supermarket, a text from someone checking in to make sure you are ok – these things are worth being grateful for. If we can bring awareness to the experience for as little as 60 seconds, we can bank it in our long-term memory. So learn to be mindful of those fleeting moments of pleasure.
Try it for yourself
Be thankful: get into the habit of writing things down that you are grateful for every single day. If writing it down is too much, then think about these things as you get into bed, just before your drift off. Research has shown that this simple act will have a positive influence on the way our brains work in just three months.
Find laughter: Do you remember what it feels like to laugh so hard, tears roll down your cheeks? Laughter can wipe away tension in a single breath and turns a frowning face into a beautiful smiling one. It doesn't take much to trigger a giggle – just thinking about something funny from your past can open us up to laughing and increase happiness. Phone a friend, tell a silly joke or watch a comedy on Netflix.
Remember to breathe: if you are stressed, anxious or unhappy, your breathing will be shallow and from your chest. Take a moment to notice your breathing, then consciously breathe from your belly. Slow down your breathing and see how fast you start to calm down. Be mindful and aware of your breath as you go through your day, and take a few moments each day to take a few deep breaths.
‘Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love’ – Brene Brown