You made it! Cookies were baked (and consumed), the holiday season was endured, and the new year rung in. And where does that leave you? Perhaps relieved…perhaps still emotionally raw.
This time of year is incredibly tough. The holidays are stressful for most people, and a new year can feel like a fresh start – or it can feel like a large, looming expanse of time if your anxiety is high. In addition, the cold weather and short days are challenges for our mental health, exacerbated if you are already feeling down.
Here are ten self-care tips to help you survive and thrive during the coming months:
1. Feel what you feel. Start by accepting where you are. You might feel down, jealous, defensive, or any number of uncomfortable emotions. Remember: what you resist, persists. Sit with what you’re feeling, send yourself some compassion, and let it move up and out.
2. There is an ancient Indian science known as Aryuveda. According to this philosophy, it is especially important to care for the body with warm foods and liquids during the winter. Try eating a warm breakfast (oatmeal rather than cold cereal) and drink lots of tea. Chamomile tea is especially calming for your body and mind.
3. Use your senses to relieve your stress. Listen to relaxing music, eat dark chocolate or drink mint tea, snuggle up under a soft blanket, burn a scented candle, or make a vision board to see yourself where you want to be.
4. Unplug. It’s hard. It’s worth it. Get away from the screen, your phone, and everyone’s unrealistically perfect Facebook life. Reconnect with what’s around you and what’s inside you. Breathe.
5. Prioritize healthy sleeping habits. Create a relaxation routine (listen to a guided meditation, practice restorative yoga, read a novel…) to help your body and mind recognize it’s time to wind down. Make sure your bedroom is dark and a comfortable temperature. Avoid alcohol in the evening (it might help you fall asleep but lessens the quality of your sleep). Try not to eat late in the evening and avoid napping. Most important, if you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it: get up and do something relaxing (read a book, listen to quiet music), and head back to bed to try again.
6. In Buddhism, there is a concept of first and second darts. The first dart is an unpleasant experience – this could be anything from stubbing your toe to a negative pregnancy test. There is a natural pain (the first dart), associated with this incident. That could be physical pain in your toe or disappointment about the test. The second dart is the one we throw ourselves. It is our reaction, the story we build around the experience (“why did my partner move the table in the first place?” “I’ll never get pregnant.”) that causes a much larger wave of suffering. Try to build some awareness around what is upsetting you or causing you pain. Name it (frustration, disappointment), acknowledge it, and build awareness of how your reactions affect your general wellbeing.
7. Give yourself permission to say no. When you get on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you, in case of an emergency, to place the oxygen mask on yourself before a child. Why? Because you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. So consider it a benefit to yourself and those around you when you say that magic word.
8. Get quiet. We live a rushed, over-stimulated lifestyle. Time alone is important: create it for yourself. Take a walk, run an errand and drive in silence, or just tell your family you need to use the loo and get some peace and quiet.
9. Surround yourself with positive, loving people. Carve out some extra time for the people who make you feel good about yourself. In addition, make sure you are playing that role for others. Find positive people…and be a positive person.
10. Pamper yourself. Go for it. Get a massage or Reiki session, take a yoga class, or get a pedicure. It’s important to reset and it’s an important statement to yourself that you are going to prioritize…YOU.
Written by Rebecca Davis, yoga instructor and Reiki Master at Wainhouse Wellness