During a recent yoga class, the instructors, Malia Hill and Nichole Harrow, gathered a group to help us enter the holidays with grace and contentment. It’s a tall order given the many stresses and commitments that tend to arise this time of year. But I found the exercise extremely helpful. Each of us looked deeply at our true needs, every day, as well as during the holidays and how it feels to have these needs met or unmet.
In our roles as therapists, caregivers, parents, and educators, we often spend our time and energy caring for those around us. During the holidays, needs are magnified: we’re hosting parties, cooking or baking, and shopping or making gifts. At the same time, we’re helping the kids and adults in our life cope with the mix of joy, anxiety, and overwhelm common this time of year.
So often, we rush to help those we care about, but don’t make it a priority to care for ourselves. We forget that it’s essential to fill one’s own pitcher before pouring water for others, and that this means taking time to nurture ourselves both physically and emotionally.
As the holidays approach, I invite you to devote some time to yourself! Take 15 minutes and find a comfortable, quiet place to answer these questions and reflect on your own needs:
- What are the basic things that help you feel healthy and emotionally stable? (e.g., food, water, sleep, exercise, connection)
- What happens when those needs are not met?
- What happens when they are met?
- How do I usually feel over the holidays?
- How I want to feel over the holidays?
- To feel this way, I need…
- Things I can do to meet these needs…
Your needs could take many forms. Maybe you were planning to cook a big meal but would be much happier hosting a potluck. Perhaps the travel you’d planned is just too much to manage this year. You may want to limit house guests or even ask people to stay elsewhere. Or maybe you’re fine having guests as long as they understand that you go to bed by 10 and go out for a long walk every morning.
Whatever your needs, try to identify the ones that are most important and then act on them. Speak up to assure that others hear those needs and will do their part to meet them. Enter the holidays with a Thanksgiving that starts with giving to yourself!
Article by Elizabeth Sautter, M.A., CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist & Executive Director of Communication Works