As we approach the winter solstice, the longest, darkest night of the year, for many their own inner darkness becomes palpable.
The festive season is a joyful time for some, a painful time for others and for some of us- it's both. Christmas is a tradition that many of us have been accustomed to celebrating since childhood and the memories it evokes are deep and plentiful.
The sensory experience of food, smells, the tradition and familiarity can bring a range of emotions to the surface as we nostalgically take a trip from the present to back in time. Back in the place where we first celebrated Christmas, our first home. Perhaps it makes you think of your parents? Perhaps you remember a grandparent? Maybe your loved ones are still with us? And maybe they're not? Maybe you're relationships are strained and you long for a different situation? And maybe you've never really had a family, or children of your own?
Whatever your situation, whatever your story, many of us experience the tide of grief pulling out from within us at this time of year. And we must remember, that we are not alone in that. Our circumstances may be different, but our emotions, our human experience is the same. This is what binds us. This is what connects us.
Below, I've listed some of my favourite self-care strategies to help you swim through grief. It's not selfish to take time out for yourself at any time of year, it is necessary.
1. Schedule time for yourself
The single most important thing you can do throughout such a busy period that is often full of emotions is to take time out for yourself.
When planning your days, it's important to consider yourself. During these times, it's also important to lower your expectations of yourself and just allow yourself to rest and be. For example: maybe you will plan to go to the gym in the morning when you get a window of time to yourself, but you wake up, having missed out on some sleep and feel like you want to rest up in bed for a bit instead. It's okay to change your mind. Responding to your body and what it needs is an important component of healing. In this situation, why not rest up for a little longer instead? Then try a gentle guided meditation that matches the mood and frequency you desire to be on to get you out and moving forward. Self-care during difficult times is a dance between allowing and keeping moving. Don't ignore your needs.
If you have trouble saying no to others, when somebody asks if you can make something, try instead: "let me get back to you", if making time for this event means compromising a priority of yours, then send them a message thanking them for their invitation but gently declining. It's okay to say no. In-fact, when it comes to self care, or any other form of success in life- it is vital.
2. Find ways to remember your loved ones
What did you love to do as a child? What made you feel free? For me, I love to write and as a kid I loved gymnastics. Now, as a woman, I practise Yoga regularly and it makes it me feel so connected to my body and my inner child. Both have become my most important forms of self care. Yoga allows me to move through and explore emotions and writing helps me to release them. I practise a beautiful Yin style winter solstice yoga at this time of year that allows me to reflect on how I'm doing and explore any feelings that surface. Sometimes, I like to have conversations with a loved one who is no longer here... I'll tell them all about my year through a letter. Or perhaps speak it aloud, or even just in my head:
I think of all the great memories they gave me
I thank them for all the things they taught me and
I list all the amazing things that happened in my life this year that I want to share with them
This prompts me to explore what I've learned this year and it transforms my sadness on their absence into gratitude for their (once) presence in my life. This process accepts the emotion first and then works on transforming it- this is essential for letting go...
Because believe me- you can't just keep pushing it down, or away and expect it to go. Whatever is ignored gathers strength. If you prefer to be around people, then talk to your loved one about all these things aloud instead. There are no hard and fast rules with this process, only that you allow the steps to happen and find a way that suits you to carry it out.
Do you love to draw? Maybe you love music... Do you love to run? Perhaps you love to cook... Maybe, you want to meet a family member and go for a walk and reminisce together? Move your body to still your mind and hone in on your individual frequency, then try fine-tuning it with a conversation with your loved one some way, somehow as demonstrated above.
3. Reflect & act upon what works and what doesn't...
Christmas is a time of tradition for many, but you don't have to carry on traditions if they no longer work for you, or they're making you feel down. You have every right to experiment with ways of doing things in your life and making your own choices about what works for you.
4. Accept that people grieve in different ways
It's easy to become resentful of people who do not seem hurt at all when you are in pain. Or judgemental of the way somebody else processes their emotions when you can't understand it, but it's important to remember that we are all human and we all experience joy and pain in our own way. Practising compassion for yourself and working through your own emotions can help you to become more compassionate towards others as you remind yourself that this emotion is part of everybody's human experience.
5. Be mindful about what you consume
If you're feeling depressed - step away from the alcohol.
If you're feeling anxious- don't watch anything that will exacerbate this.
If you're feeling sluggish, restore your body with food high in protein, get outside and take some supplements.
If you're comparing yourself to others, lay off the social media while you're feeling sensitive.
Consider how you feel with every choice you make and remind yourself that you have a choice.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Getting enough rest is absolutely vital for wellbeing. Aim for at least 8 hours a night and if you skip a bit here and there, take an indulgent afternoon nap - because you can!
This is especially important for parents (like me). It's difficult to find the time to yourself, or time to just be present when there is so much to do during this time of year, so it's important to delegate and remind yourself that people love to help each other, so don't be shy in asking someone to step in and step up!
8. Maintain a sense of structure
It's important to maintain a sense of structure to make sure your basic needs- food, hydration, fresh air, community are taken care of. It also helps to break up time and keep you present and awake.
9. Give to others
Giving to others doesn't only make them feel good, it makes you feel good too! Giving releases feel-good endorphins in the brain, plus it makes us feel valued and gives a sense of purpose during anytime of our life. This opportunity to connect tenderly with others is especially important during difficult times; because grief is love with no place to go, we must learn to celebrate and find ways of expressing our love still.
10. Ask for support
If you're really struggling to move through your feelings, then it's okay. Reach out for help and remember to treat yourself as a wounded animal- eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired and remember that this will pass. Remember that there are many excellent charitable organisations on hand to help you should anything ever get too much for you this time of year, find all the support available to you here.
Need some support? Reach out for your free Consultation today. I can't wait to show you all my tools and tricks. I can't wait to learn your story and mirror back to you all the beauty in it that you may not even be able to see yourself.
Want to learn more about grief and explore the beauty within the it all? Click here.
Sending you so much love & tenderness,