Have you ever noticed that the people who are most likely to burnout are the ones that give the most to others and the least to themselves?
For many this time at the end of the year revolves around the giving of gifts. Sometimes the giving and social expectations can become extremely stressful and in the process the person who forgets to receive is yourself. This can be heightened when there are children at home during the holidays and their demands require extra giving.
In the midst of meeting my children’s needs, making sure I have the “perfect” gifts for everyone, tying up work commitments and planning the Christmas lunch to be prepared before we go off on holiday I have let my sacred me-time slip. In doing so I have become tired, ratty and even resentful at times. And that’s no good for anyone. So over the last two days I have been on a quest to take back me-time. I have been focusing on giving to me in various ways.
So I got to thinking that I should write a post for all those who get caught up over this time (whether you celebrate Christmas/Hannukah/other gift-giving celebrations or have no particular celebrations at this time of the year but do have bored children at home or increased social commitments) to please remember to give to you while giving to everyone else.
As Zen master, Thich Naht Hanh, says ““If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.”
For many the idea of self-care can be smeared with beliefs around ‘selfishness’ or being ‘conceited’ or even ‘being lazy’. This is such a Western phenomenon, while in the East time with the self and connection to self is sacred and deeply essential. We need only consider the high rates of burnout to see what happens when we ignore this sacred time with self.
So here are 10 ways to give to yourself this festive season/holiday/crazy end of year time (choose which best suits you!):
1) Ask for some help. The chances are there are people who have said to you on many occasions “Please let me know if you need anything/if I can help” and you’ve nodded and said “sure”, promptly forgetting the offer was made. People like to help and support as this enables a connection with one another in a time when we are deeply separated and isolated in many ways. If you know someone you feel safe with you and with whom you do not mind feeling a little vulnerable (because asking for even small things can be difficult) perhaps now is the time to cash in on that outstanding offer.
Whether it is asking them to help you out with a lift somewhere, to look after your child/pet for a short period of time, to help you fix something – see what you feel comfortable with asking for and give it a try. It may only be a small thing but the power of the giving and receiving will fill you right up as you feel cared for and remind yourself you are not alone and are loved and supported.
And if it helps you to feel better remember that you can always return the favour when the time is right.
2) Take 5 minutes to focus on the world we’ve been blessed with. Use all of your senses and gift yourself the opportunity to be fully present and alive. Notice what you see, taste, smell, feel (inside and outside of you) and hear. To really gift yourself add some music, some incense, be around laughter or watch a sunset.
3) Take a long, slow bath – luxuriate in the water, honour the fact that you are able to bath, that your body works reasonably or really well, that you have this time for you. Clean yourself slowly and with presence, dry yourself slowly and perhaps apply some lotion as a gift to yourself.
4) Buy your favourite flowers and put them somewhere you will see them often. Be conscious in giving them to yourself for your own pleasure and enjoyment.
5) Breathe deeply and consciously for a few minutes every day and remember that every time you breathe in you are breathing in the gift of life. You are breathing in life force and all the abundance of opportunities and lessons that life has to offer you. Be grateful for each breath and for your life. Focus on each inhale and exhale fully so the next inhale can be a deep, full breath.
6) Take an afternoon nap. This for me is one of the most delicious ways of giving to myself – such a treat! This may involve no 1 (asking for help) if you have children that need to be looked after, or sharing the parenting duties so each parent gets a turn to take some time out when both do not have to be working.
7) Give yourself some compassion when you are feeling down/anxious/angry/ashamed/guilty. Hold your left hand on your heart (the left hand is the feminine side and more connected to intuition, surrender, receptivity, emotion) and say to you, as you would to someone else, “I am sorry it is so difficult. It will be OK in time but I know it is difficult right now”. This acknowledgement and compassion for the more difficult emotions can be challenging when you may have been brought up receiving the implicit message to “get over it”, to distract yourself, to not burden others with your emotions that scared them.
Gift yourself the knowledge that you are worthy of feeling and that your feelings are valid and important. Just this can bring a great deal more lightness and often the feelings will pass.
8) Tune in to yourself before making a decision or giving a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Spend some time feeling what a yes and no feels like in your body and practice listening to that rather than your head which says you ‘should’ do this or ‘should not’ do that. Often these shoulds cause us to override our hearts and our true needs. We then give away our power as we do not honour ourselves.
9) Take some time to practice a meditation to connect to you and to some quiet time. Meditation has been proven to change brain frequencies and to alter physiology in such a way as to help one to come to a place of calm that is found when we are no longer in fight/flight mode (a state we unknowingly spend a great deal of time in in our modern day lives). The more you meditate and practice coming into this calmer state the more you recognise when you are no longer in that place and the easier it is to come back to that place. Here is a meditation for you to try out and is particularly focussed on receiving
10) Dance like no one is watching (including your inner critic). Put on the cheesiest, most fun or uplifting song you want and just have fun! This is one way to really give to your inner child specifically.
Giving does not have to take a lot of time – I know that most of us have a challenging relationship with time. Just 5 minutes a day can make a noticeable difference. It’s 5 minutes where you are giving yourself the powerful message that you are important and that your needs are important. That’s approximately 2.5 hours a month and 30 hours a year of honouring your needs. Surely you are worth that?
Best of all is that when you give to you you will find that you start to receive more from others as you give yourself permission to receive. We are all worthy of receiving goodness, love, support and care – every single one of us is a divine, beautiful, valuable being and as much as you think others deserve to receive from you so it is your birth right to receive from yourself and others.