The holidays are a joyful time, full of traditions, special time with loved ones, and that special feeling in the air. However, for most of us it can also be a time of incredible stress and worry. We might not be in a financial situation to give our family the holiday that we wish we could. We might feel overwhelmed by the pressure to look perfect during family-photo season. We might find ourselves getting into arguments over petty things with people that we love, simply because we feel inadequate during the expected question sessions about how our life is going and what we plan to do next.
I’ve found that during the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to practice self-love and self-care. Why?
It Enables Better Connections with Others
Hopefully, your holiday season is full of quality time with loved ones. However, even if it’s not, self-love is important to cultivate because it helps you become able to nurture connections with others. Once you are able to acknowledge and own your own worth, others are more likely to recognize and appreciate it themselves. This frees us from the bravado or people-pleasing behavior that comes when we’re not sure what value we bring to the table. It’s the best prevention for unhealthy codependent relationships. Instead, we can actually establish healthy, loving bonds with others.
It Prevents Self-Punishment
The holidays are a great time to fall into the trap of self-punishment. We all know the feeling of indulging too much. For example, we might find ourselves stress eating way too much because we feel that we don’t deserve to get out of our old patterns and come closer to our ideal selves. This can come in many forms, from drinking too much to buying too much.
It Fosters Long-Term Goals
Along the same line, self-love can help us to look beyond immediate self-gratification and instead look ahead to long-term goals. You can have faith both that (1) you deserve to reach your personal goals and plans, and (2) you have the capability to reach those goals. This can help you turn aside from unhealthy behaviors, whether that’s falling into a romantic relationship that you know isn’t what you really want, or further procrastinating taking a professional risk, like asking for a promotion.
4 Steps to Self Love Over the Holidays
Alright, so you recognize the benefits of self-love. But putting it into action can feel like a different story. “Self-Love” sounds great, but it’s also so vague! Most of the time, it seems that it only has as much power to change our lives as a coin tossed into a fountain; it’s a mere wish. Well, I beg to differ. Here are three things to do this holiday season to practice self-love.
- Practice gratitude in this moment: We’re wired to look ahead and behind. For the most part, this is good! It’s what makes us human. However, it can sometimes also be the reason that on January 2, we look back and wonder what ever happened to December? You don’t remember having any fun at all. This year, instead of constantly stressing about what else is on your to-do list, take a moment here and there throughout the day to be grateful for that moment. Even if that moment consists of a long stretch of work that you wish would just end, or if you’re waiting in line at the store, or if your children are whining… there’s always something to feel grateful for. Stop waiting to be happy when this or that is done. Appreciate right now! Smile at the person next to you in line. Remember that you’re grateful for your family. Appreciate the fact that in your office, you are comfortable and well in a heated building. In order to practice this more, you might want to set an alarm on your watch or phone once or twice a day. When the alarm goes off, take three quiet breaths and then say a prayer of gratitude.
- Avoid arbitrary, materialistic expectations: It’s so easy to play the comparison game during the holidays. Are your children getting as nice of gifts as their friends are? Is your holiday bonus as good as last year? Are your holiday decorations as good as your neighbors’? Is your family Christmas card and accompanying progress report something to be proud of? Well, maybe it’s time to stop worrying about all that. In fact, you’ll find yourself amazingly free once you realize that this Christmas, you don’t HAVE to bake cinnamon bread for everyone who comes to visit. You don’t NEED to host a party, or attend each one that you’re invited to. You won’t really lose much if you miss that sale. Re-evaluate your holiday goals; those things that are the most important to you. These things might be quality time with your family, a walk in the snow, kind words to a stranger. Your holiday doesn’t have to look like all those commercials!
- Indulge in moderation: One mistake we make when trying to avoid unhealthy decisions over the holidays is to deprive ourselves. We forbid ourselves to eat any sweets, or to buy anything new for ourselves. And then we feel so guilty and ashamed when we break one of those harsh rules. Often, that shame and disappointment in ourselves leads to the MOST unhealthy behavior. Instead, come to terms with the idea that you should be able to treat yourself this holiday season, as well as others. Give yourself permission to buy one thing for yourself when you go out to do holiday shopping. Allow yourself your favorite dessert at a holiday party. Just set goals for moderation!