Feeling frazzled is common at this busy time of year as we attempt to meet perceived expectations and create the perfect Christmas -from the gifts we give, to the meals we cook, the conversation we make and generally doing our best to please all of the people who matter to us on the very same day. It can seem like there’s an expectation each Christmastime to recreate one of those ‘perfect family’ television advertisements; chatting over dinner, laughing and playing games with everyone feeling happy and energised, enjoying each other’s company.
So for many of us who are more introverted, highly sensitive or socially anxious, Christmas can be a challenging time. It can feel like we have to be a different person; stepping well outside of our comfort zone and pushing ourselves to our limits in so many ways -all whilst hiding the anxiety or stress we’re feeling from those around us. Sure, some of us can put on the mask and pour our energies into putting on the performance we think those around us want to see. The rest of us might feel our energy slip away, showing up more quietly. However we’re showing up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, out of place or ‘not enough’ at social gatherings. Unsurprisingly, from this place we can feel especially sensitive to other people’s comments and behaviours, and perhaps even a little careless with our own too!
That’s why it’s so important to purposefully balance your sense of social obligations against your genuine need for self-care at Christmastime. With this in mind, here are two questions you need to be asking yourself today:
What do you keep in your self-care toolkit?
Now is the perfect time to revisit your self-care toolkit. What techniques have you learnt, or what qualities do you have, that can help you with managing anxious feelings or uncomfortable emotions? Take a look in your own personal self-care toolkit and perhaps you’ll see some of these familiar tools:
A go-to breathing technique to help bring you back to calm? (Read this post if you need one). The courage to share how you’re feeling and ask for what you need? What about a self-compassion practice, acknowledging that Christmastime isn’t easy and you are not alone in feeling this way, while looking at what you can do in the now to help yourself feel better? Knowing when you need to be taking time out? Making space for exercise, the people who light you up and things that make you feel good? How about the ability to focus on the positive qualities that you or a loved one has when you’re losing sight of this? Or staying connected to your values/what’s important to you? Time with animals? A useful distraction technique or gratitude practice that works for you? The wisdom to set healthy boundaries with others? The ability to listen to our bodies and sense what we need (and what we don’t)?
If there’s space in your self-care toolkit, all it’ll take you is a little time on the internet to seek out new strategies to add to your existing tools. The next step is to give yourself permission to use them…
What permission do you need to give yourself this Christmas?
We can’t pour from an empty cup and we know we need to look after our mental and emotional health to show up as our best selves. But what we need personally will look different for everyone so think about this carefully… What would you write on a permission slip to yourself this Christmas to help you manage your own wellbeing?
For some, it might be permission to take the alone time that you need to re-energise. It might be prioritising getting outdoors and walking on Christmas day. Permission to limit time spent in places you find overwhelming. It might be taking the pressure off yourself by giving yourself permission to show up as who you are and being okay with that. Permission to be quiet. Permission to speak up. Permission to spend less time (or even none at all) with someone who is critical or sarcastic towards you. Permission to eat only until you’re full. Making time to exercise, meditate or read. Permission to spend only as much as you can afford to on gifts. Permission to play (so many of us adults forget to play!) or have a go at something different. Permission to set limits or ask for what you need.
What are the permissions you need to give yourself to help you move away from people pleasing and towards setting healthy boundaries and looking after yourself? Once you have a couple of ideas, you might like to write a little permission slip to yourself and pop it in your pocket as a gentle reminder that you do have choices this Christmas. Choose wisely for you first. Then support other people to choose wisely for them.