The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year, and it can also be an emotionally draining and overwhelming time of year too. I have found that learning how to practice extreme self-care can make a profound, positive difference in how you experience the holiday season.

I was initially introduced the concept of extreme self-care from one of my favorite life coaches, Cheryl Richardson. Cheryl is also the author of one of my favorite books ‘The Art of Extreme Self-Care”.  Cheryl states that “extreme self-care is the foundation of a rich and fulfilling life.”

I can tell you from personal experience that she is absolutely right! I am a living testament of this truth since I have been practicing extreme self-care for over a decade. Not only has it made my life much richer and fuller, it has literally given me my life back to where I am enjoying it vs. surviving it.

What I have found is that it is best to approach a new extreme self-care practice as a lifestyle and a process vs. something you learn or achieve and then you are done.

Without practicing extreme self-care some of the typical things we tend to experience around the holidays are:

  • Feeling guilty when we don’t do what others want us to do regarding family or work holiday gifts, gatherings & cards.   Yet, we then feel resentful if we do succumb to our family or work expectations
  • Feeling the stress and pressure of longer “to do” lists due to holiday gift buying, gatherings, cards, baking, etc.
  • Due to adding more to our already overbooked “to do” list, many of our existing self-care routines get pushed off our lists like: regularly exercising, eating healthy, and our spiritual practices.    We are then tired, drained and out of sorts due to missing our regular healthy routines.
  • Feeling angry and deprived for not getting our needs met, guilty for not being there for everyone who has asked us to, depleted for working so hard, and wondering if we will ever enjoy the holidays like so many other people seem to each year.

What keeps us from taking the best care of ourselves?
We avoid self-care to avoid feeling guilty, ashamed & possibly judged as selfish or bad by others if we put our needs first.  Why do we feel so bad when we take care of ourselves?  Women have been socialized to be caregivers and to put others needs before their own for thousands of years.   Therefore, it is still ingrained in our culture and considered “noble” for women to put others needs before their own and selfish to put their own needs first.

Even though these cultural expectations still exist, we get to choose whether we will continue to buy into them.   I challenge you to adopt your own belief system and values about whose needs should come first in your life.  After all it’s your life!

How Putting Your Needs First Can Actually Serve Others More Powerfully

I have discovered that putting my needs before others is actually the very trait that I must embrace to be able to make my greatest contribution to my family, my world and also for myself. By doing so, I show up fully engaged and out love vs. duty and obligation. When we show up out of love, the experience is transformational for everyone and it ends up being the greatest act of service you can make.  When we show up out of duty and obligation there is no engagement or desire to connect.  I have found that it has actually done more harm than good to relationships to be in an environment where you and/or the other people that are there really don’t want to be there.

5 Top Extreme Self-Care Practices For the Holidays

  1. Get clear about what you want to experience during this holiday season. Your time and energy are sacred, and if you want to really enjoy the holidays, it is essential that you give yourself permission to know what you would like to experience this holiday season and be proactive about creating it.  Write down how you would like to feel, where you would like to be, who you would like to be with and what experiences you would like to have for this holiday season. Let the answers to these questions be your guide as to what invitations you accept, which ones you do not and which ones you initiate.

2.  Wait to check in with yourself before you respond to an invitation to a family or work-related holiday event. Instead of automatically saying yes to an invitation, give yourself the gift of a pause, and wait to check in with yourself about what you really want.  If the invitation is in person, you can say “Thanks so much for the invitation; I will have to get back to you on that.”  Once you have checked in with yourself and have reviewed whether or not this invitation aligns with your intentions for the holidays, you will know how to answer it.

3. How to say no to an invitation without feeling guilty. One of Cheryl Richardson’s greatest gifts to me is when she shared how to say no to an invitation in an honest, simple, yet to the point way.  Here is her recommendation:  “Thank you for thinking of me for the (event) ________________.   Although I won’t be able to make it, I hope that you have a wonderful time.” When I first heard her share this tip, I was rather astounded how simple it was. I began using it immediately and it has been my go to response for all kind of requests for my time when I do not want to say yes.

She mentions that it is important not to make excuses or apologize when we decline an invitation since we are not obligated to anyone for our time unless we buy into the myth that we are.   When we come from the place of knowing that we are at choice as to how we spend our time and when we let go of feeling bad or selfish for taking care of ourselves, you will be amazed at how easy this practice can become.

4. What to do when things go south during a holiday gathering. Create an extreme self-care first aid kit to have on the ready when one of your crazy family members decides to say or do something that upsets you, or something triggers an emotionally painful experience for you.

The following tips have been in my personal extreme self-care kit and have helped me greatly during my holiday gatherings. Feel free to use these or better yet, make up your own:

  • Bring walking shoes and a coat with you so you can take a walk around the block if you feel out of sorts, stressed or hurt.
  • Bring a blanket, pillow, book, journal or audio recording where you can retreat to your car for some journaling, a break or a nap.
  • Bring your own snacks and drinks if the holiday snacks or drinks cause you to overindulge.
  • When the topics of politics or religion come up, simply say “politics and religion are prohibited topics at family gatherings” and change the subject.
  • Be strategic about who you visit with, sit next to and who to avoid.
  • Have a close friend or family member you can call or text during the event for support.
  1. How to leave an event early. If you have tried everything in your extreme self-care kit to stay balanced and calm and the environment you are in is not safe on an emotional or physical level, or you still feel extremely uncomfortable, then it is completely fine to leave. Simply tell the host or hostess that you are not feeling well and need to go. Remember that it is ok to take care of yourself and everyone will be better for it!

Now it is up to you to put the Art of Extreme Self-Care into action!

Here’s To Creating The Most Wonderful Holiday Season Ever!!!

Mary

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