It's easy to overlook ourselves during the holidays, and not just because everything is merry and bright. Many of us have toxic relationships and family dysfunction thrown in our faces. The holidays can feel more lonely than any other time of the year. Here are 12 simple and virtually free ways to replenish your soul between now and 2019.
Day 1. Forgive Yourself
We didn't know what we didn't know. Period. This is one of those cliches that's easy to throw around but tough to execute. Stop listening to the condemning voice in your head, at first minute by minute. The longer you ignore the self-abuse, the easier it will get. Replace the negative soundtrack with something - anything. I've even written out sentences to solidify a new mantra. Try writing 10 or even 100 times: I did my best. Also, find a support group or recovery group to cheer you on.
Day 2. Lavish Yourself With Quiet Time
Setting aside a few minutes first thing in the morning is an investment that returns mega rewards. My personal faves are reading from Courage To Change (an Al-Anon book), coloring in my Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps (an ROR book), and taking a few minutes to write out the Serenity Prayer. I list everything I am struggling with for the day, ask for the courage to do what I can and wisdom to know when to speak and when to be quiet. If I miss even a few days of this grounding habit, my life quickly becomes unmanageable.
Day 3. Write Your Top Ten Story
News casts will soon be airing the top stories of 2018, so why not do the same, with one twist. List 10 things you are grateful for. When I first found recovery, I wasn't remotely grateful to God. I was furious. HE refused to solve my problems WHEN and HOW I wanted. Can you believe it? Writing a gratitude list, begrudgingly at first, grew into beautiful proof that I could trust my Higher Power. I used pictures to post mine on Instagram. It turned out to be a lovely hour of creative distraction.
Day 4. Break Up With Anger
Trapped anger is a big deal. It magnifies every problem we face today by revisiting ALL of the problems in our past. As a result, we tend to over-react, take things personally, and heap anger on unsuspecting people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let's be honest, it's really tough to say what we need to say when we need to say it. Those who really deserve our anger are the least likely to hear it.
I am personally guilty of stuffing my anger, and I even justify this behavior with recovery slogans! This year, my sponsor challenged me to let this anger out. Some techniques that work for me include:
- Writing an angry letter I will never send. After writing the letter, I share it with my sponsor.
- Shredding the angry letter or burning it
- Hit and kick a punching bag
Because I took the time to work my anger out, I actually experienced true forgiveness for the first time. What a wonderful gift to see someone who has hurt me and not be forced to choke back acidic anger.
Day 5. Get Dressed AND Get Out Of The House
When it's cold, damp, or even snowy, it's easy to hide inside. But staying in pajamas too long should come with a warning label. This tends to invite lethargy and self-loathing. Put on pants with a waist-line, bundle up if you must and go look at some holiday decorations.
Day 6. Go For A Walk
Fresh air, even if it's brisk or bitterly cold, is so refreshing. Walking clears your mind. If you have guests, getting out into an open space (with or without them) is so freeing.
Day 7. Take A Nap
The hustle and bustle that comes from spreading holiday cheer is exhausting. Take a few minutes or a few hours to catch up on lost sleep.
Day 8. Find Some Sparkle
When we're tired, stressed, or even happily busy, drinking enough water is one of our first healthy habits to drop. Many complain that water is so boring and tasteless. We can neither deny or confirm those allegations. :) We can, however, encourage you to treat yourself to a tall glass of sparkling water. Want a little extra fun and flavor? Add a slice of citrus or a few berries.
Day 9. Go Gourmet
After weeks of eating our way out of gingerbread houses, convincing our bodies to go back to asparagus and kale isn't easy. Take some time to make a list of your favorite healthy foods. Include luxuries like maybe a nice steak or salmon, specialty cheeses, exotic fruits, and nuts. When you head out to the grocery store, put these items in your cart first.
Day 10. Time For Tough Love
Unless we are hyper-vigilant about fitness, we can quickly lose our strength and muscle mass. Can you still do a push up? A sit up? Or a plank? These old school exercises are a quick fix to kick start a healthy new habit. Push ups are hard to do. Try to do just a few and then do one more the next day. And one more the day after that. The results will surprise you.
Day 11. When In Doubt, Throw It Out
Purge. Purge. And purge. Get anything that makes you sad or angry out of your house. Anything that stirs up bad memories would be better off living in someone else's home. Also, if you haven't used it in 6 months, Oprah says it should go. Clean out the old to make room for the new. Are your towels torn and stained? Maybe it's time to get a few new ones.
Day 12. Look Ahead
We're not talking about making resolutions we'll never keep. This year, let's look at what do we want more of? Love? Serenity? Nature? Relaxation? Sleep? Friendship? Making resolutions and then breaking them can lead to shame and disappointment. In recovery, we learn to focus on progress, not perfection. A small step forward is still a step forward.
Once you realize what you really want, pay attention to times when it is absent. Those are situations, habits, and relationships you might want to examine.
Don't overlook one of the most important people on your Christmas list: YOU! You don't deserve to be last. Take some time to give a little something back to yourself. It will set you up for a brighter and happier New Year.