by Kathi Szabo

Hanukkah has already started. Today is the Winter Solstice and the celebration of Yule.  Christmas is just 4 days away followed by Kwanzaa and then less than a week later there are New Year’s Eve Celebrations!

All these joyous occasions, yet many of us find ourselves stressed out. Feeling anxiety creeping in.

So how do we enjoy the end of the year? How do we stay calm when overwhelm starts to set in?

We make time for Self-Care.

I hear you. “Kathi, I simply don’t have time for self-care right now. I’ll get to it after I get through the next few weeks. I have to finish wrapping presents, run around getting all the special food for our traditional meals, send out holiday cards and that’s only half of my list! There is just no time for Self-Care!”

But it is times like this we need to prioritize Self-Care.

You see we are always in one of two states.  Our central nervous system only has two states of being, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.  You may know these as fight, flight, or freeze as the sympathetic, and rest and digest as the parasympathetic.

But there is much more to these two states than simply that.

In one we are relaxed and joyful. We use more of our prefrontal cortex or the cognitive part of the brain..

Then other we are stressed and full of worry and anxiety. In the other, we are using the amygdala, the fear center of our brain. The part that looks for danger in order to keep us safe.

But much of what causes stress during the holidays is not dangerous, it is often a feeling of uneasiness caused by the uncertainty of the situation.

We start wondering things like “what will Uncle bill say”, or “what if so and so gets me a gift and I got them nothing?”

When we are in the sympathetic nervous system, our brains sense these thoughts as a potential danger. Our automatic response is to fight freeze or flee!  But we aren’t in danger. We are uncertain.

Tony Robbins has said, “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.”

We can live with uncertainty when we engage the parasympathetic and we consciously and mindfully realize we are not in danger.

Self-Care activates the parasympathetic nervous system.  The rest and digest state.  When we are in this state, we rely more on the prefrontal cortex, we make rational decisions, and we can learn to be unattached to things not in our control. It’s no joke that we can wear ourselves out to the point of being sick. Sick with worry and anxiety.

But I’m not talking about indulgences, I’m talking about Radical Self-Care! Self-Care that has long-term benefits. It replenishes our well.

RADICAL SELF-CARE Is Caring For Our Well-Being

Just because something feels good, it doesn’t mean it’s Radical Self-Care. For example, a glass of wine is usually more of an indulgence, not radical self-care. A mani and pedi, nice to do, I highly recommend, but many times, more often than not, we are not experiencing it as Radical Self-Care!

Radical Self-Care is when we increase our levels of well-being.

This can be easier to understand when we think of well-being as a set of building blocks:

  • Positive Emotions,
  • Engagement in Life,
  • Relationships,
  • Meaning of our Life,
  • Accomplishments,
  • and lastly, our Health.

Activities that help us improve these 6 areas, that’s Radical Self-Care!

If we need more positive emotions, we should do self-care that makes us feel good.  If our need is to build stronger relationships with family and friends, maybe our self-care needs to be with others. Are you searching for meaning in your life, maybe your self-care is learning or serving others.  Want to get healthier, your self-care can be taking care of your physical body.

So, the first step in Radical Self-Care is to determine the current status of your well-being. What are you lacking and how are you feeling? For me, right now, less than a week before Christmas and a blizzard in the forecast, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, a little sad, and I’ve been working so hard on Eclectic Sanctuary, cleaning and decorating, my body feels bloated and achy.

Once I know what I need, I can choose what type of self-care activity suits me best at this time. It may be different depending on if it’s the holidays or not, or what is on our agenda for the day. But we can choose activities that are sensory, emotional, spiritual, physical, or social.

Five Ways to Practice Self-Care

Sensory activities calm the mind using our 5 senses. Allowing us to tune into our inner selves. This includes things like meditation, smelling flowers, forest bathing, or a hot bath. These activities correlate with the building blocks or positive emotions, engagement and even health.

Emotional activities allow us to feel. Emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are. Emotional activities help us release those emotions that do not lead to a calm feeling, and embrace those that do!  Sometimes a good cry is great self-care.  So is journaling, deciding to see a therapist, laughter, and singing. Emotional self-care helps in pretty much every building block, even our health.

Spiritual self-care is getting in touch with our values. Many times these activities build on the block of meaning, but also could be relationships, positive emotions, and engagement. These activities include things like attending a church service, having a gratitude journal, yoga, embracing our interests and creativity, and doing charity work.

Physical self-care is simply taking care of the vessel we have for our journey here on earth.  These activities are anything that is good for our bodies: sports, walking, a healthy meal, stretching, and resting.  Not only does this support the building block of health, it can also support Relationships, Accomplishment, and Engagement.

Social activities connect us with others. Who you do things with is most important. How do they make you feel? Choose those that fill your cup, not suck your energy! These activities can be dinner with family and friends, joining a support group, or even writing Holiday Cards! Social self-care builds the blocks of Relationships, Meaning, and Positive emotions.

Now that you have the foundations of Radical Self-Care, let’s figure out how to make the time so that you can truly enjoy the holiday and all of its festivities!

Making Time For Radical Self-Care

Can you take 15 minutes in the morning, before your day even gets started? I start my day with self-care before I even get out of bed! I do two things:  Meditation and moving my body! Yes I move my body before I even get out of bed. This started years ago when getting up and taking the first few steps in the morning was getting difficult. I realized if I just took a few minutes to roll my ankles, bend my knees, and point and flex, I felt so much better! These days I’ve added some core movement as well! What can you do every morning, not just during the holidays, that will help you start the day calm?

What about during the day? Can you find another 15 minutes or so just for you? Maybe take the dog for a walk and be in the moment with him. Make a cup of tea or for the holidays, a cup of Hot Cocoa! But don’t just drink it, savor it. Meaning, sit with it. Experience it! Write out a card or journal, for just a few minutes. What else can you do in just 15 minutes?

Always end the day with self-care. Again, it doesn’t have to be long. Mark ends the day with a forward fold. Every night before getting in bed, he stops and folds. This is self-care. And it takes less than a minute. But it signals to his body it’s time for rest because the body knows this habit and by doing this every day, he ensures he will always be able to do a forward fold! Yes, what you do consistently every day, you will always be able to do!

Radical Self-Care is a Habit

Radical Self-Care doesn’t take hours, but it does take making it a ritual or habit. We shouldn’t think of it only when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the holidays. When we prioritize Self-Care, when we prioritize ourselves, we find ourselves more relaxed and engaged with life, because we are engaging our parasympathetic nervous system and not allowing the sympathetic to respond with fear. We can only be in one state or the other. Why live in fear when we can live relaxed and in peace?

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, to support our well-being. But we must be in the right mindset to experience them in this way. When we prioritize Radical Self-Care and we take time for our higher Self, we are also more present, calmer, and engaged to truly be there for the ones we love.

Give your family and loved ones a gift this holiday season. Give yourself permission for Radical Self-Care!

And if you want to start the year off with some fabulous self-care, sign up for the FREE 7-Day MindShift! 7 Days of prioritizing you. Focusing on changing your thought patterns and shifting the mind to a more creative and empowered state! Embracing Radical Self-Care in new and powerful ways!