As we go full-steam into the busy holiday season, we’re featuring guest posts from three wellness professionals who specialize in helping parents feel more centered and energized. On January 23, coaches Cory Halaby and Molly Maguire Shrewsberry and nutritionist Stacy Kennedy are also leading the Wellesley Wellness Retreat, where they’ll teach moms strategies for self-care and managing family life all year long. If you live anywhere near the Boston area, register now for the morning program as well as yoga, private coaching sessions, nutritional counseling, and massage in the afternoon. It’s sure to be a motivational and relaxing day.
In the final post of the week, wellness coach Molly Shrewsberry reminds us to be kind to just about the last person on our minds this month: ourselves. Molly is a health and wellness coach and creator of Love Well Live Well, a blog platform focused on the role of self-love and its impact on overall health and wellness.
During the holidays we tend to be extra hard on ourselves. The expectations we set are high: mailing out the perfect card, starting new traditions, attending every event we are invited to (and making sure we bring a delicious dish), finding meaningful gifts for all on our list, and creating a blissful atmosphere filled with nothing but positive, happy memories for our children.
These unrealistic expectations often end with disappointment, mixed with more than a few moments of guilt, negative self-talk, guilt, comparing, stress, irritation—and did I mention guilt?
This year, instead of giving into the madness, why not focus instead on giving yourself the gift of self-compassion. Parenting is hard work everyday, but extra challenging during the holidays. You are doing an amazing job…no matter how many things haven’t seemed to go your way or how long your to-do list is.
And when it comes to gifts for other people, let me simplify it for you: When it comes down to it, YOU are what people—in particular, your kids—want for the holidays. Spending time with mom and dad is more important to them than the toys on their list (as much as it doesn’t seem that way!) Don’t believe me? Watch this video. It’s a tear-jerker and great reminder.
As an added bonus, when you give yourself a break—and focus on things you need to do to be, above all, present and happy—you give the gift of modeling self-compassion for your kids. There’s nothing better than that.
How to start being more compassionate to yourself this month? Dr. Kristin Neff, the self-compassion guru, breaks this down to three elements.
1. Self-Kindness: “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Be gentle with yourself, like you would someone close to you. If your friend told you she wasn’t going to mail out holiday cards, you wouldn’t make her feel ashamed about it. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.
2. Common Humanity: Parenting is filled with inadequacies and they tend to be over-exaggerated during the holidays. Not to mention the childhood memories and feelings that come up. The good news is that you are not alone! Everyone struggles and nobody is perfect. It’s what makes being human so amazing. Getting in touch with a friend who can relate will take you out of your “everyone else is perfect” mentality and bring you back to reality. I love laughing with friends about our shortcomings and mistakes. Friends also help to bring perspective. Do you really have it so bad? With the busyness, it’s easy to lose sight of what we really want to gain from the holiday season. It’s helpful to step back and think, “What do I want my children to look back and remember from the holidays?” I’m guessing it won’t be toys and a stressed-out mom!
3. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a beautiful balance of acknowledging your feelings, but not focusing on the negative. Being mindful makes it easier to acknowledge your feelings and negative self-talk, realize you are not alone and remember the steps to be kind to yourself.
Now, you that you know the three components of self-compassion, here’s how to implement it into your life this month. When you’re exhausted, have a to-do list a mile long and have just yelled like a crazy person at your kids (again) for fighting and not listening to you, find a quiet few minutes and try this Self-Compassion Break Exercise: Realize this is a moment of suffering that is painful; remember suffering is a part of life; and then put your hands over your heart and feel the warmth of your hands on your chest.
With your hand over your heart, say to yourself phrase or two along the lines of “may I be kind to myself.” Here is one a loving-kindness meditation to try:
May I be filled with love.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
It’s amazing how things shift when we are as compassionate to ourselves, as we are with others.
Here’s to a self-compassionate, loving and accepting holiday…. however it may turn out!
To find out more about the Wellesley Wellness Retreat and register yourself or a loved one, go to the website here. The event will be on January 23, with morning and afternoon sessions.