The Christmas and New Year period means different things to different people – it can mean time off work, an excuse to make positive changes, and fun with friends and family, but it can also bring stress through enforced time with people who aren’t always good for us, a strong focus on food and drink, and financial strain. It’s therefore even more important at this time of year to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. But is that easier said than done?
If prioritising yourself doesn’t come naturally then it can be hard to know where to begin. Luckily I’m here to talk you through it.
1. In order to include yourself in your decision making, you need to know what you want
This might sound obvious, but again it isn’t always as easy as it seems. Take for example the idea of a group of friends going out to eat – you and 3 close friends are arranging to meet up for a meal. One person suggests pizza, one steak, and one sushi, so how do you decide where to go? What if I told you that was the wrong question, and what you really need to ask yourself is ‘what do I want to eat?’ – because in that selection of 3 very different options your choice was nowhere to be seen.
This is an example of you not valuing yourself as highly as others, and so setting yourself up to feel powerless as you get pulled from one thing to another without ever being sure if you really want to do any of it. Lesson one is therefore to make sure that your choice is always in the mix. That doesn’t mean that you have to insist your friends always do what you want to do, merely that you have as much right as they do to choose those plans.
2. Valuing yourself doesn’t mean giving less value to anyone else
We can often be afraid of making ourselves heard for fear that to do so would be to take space away from everyone else. This might even be something you’ve been told in the past by people who wanted to use that fear to keep you down. But it’s not true. Your self confidence won’t bother anyone who isn’t actively invested in keeping you down (and frankly, if that’s their intention for you then you shouldn’t care about their opinions of you!)
So next time you’re worried that if you start to take up your rightful space in the world that this will negatively impact the people you care about, remember that giraffes stand tall, and yet the zebra don’t think they’re taking up too much space!
3. Boundaries keep you feeling ok
It’s all well and good me telling you to consider your choices and to value yourself, but how do you actually use those skills to make potentially difficult times work better for you? Through boundaries.
Boundaries are rules we put in place. Lines we won’t cross or let others cross in relation to us. They help us to feel protected in the same way physical boundaries such as the walls of our home help us to feel protected from the outside world.
Your boundaries can be anything that help you to feel ok about a situation – perhaps you are happy to visit your in-laws but only if you leave by 5pm, or you feel ok about seeing your family on Christmas day but will turn down the second invite to Boxing Day, or you’ll go out with your friends on New Year’s Eve but will limit yourself to 3 drinks so you feel ok the next morning. Your boundaries will be unique to you and will be based on your own needs and worries, and they’ll help you to feel in control.
4. There is no definitive right and wrong, so trust your instincts
As humans we like certainty but it’s hard to come by. We like to know right from wrong, left from right, black from white, but really our lives (particularly in our interactions with each other) are carefully choregraphed shades of grey in which we try to balance the fine line of what’s best for them vs what’s best for us. It’s therefore important that we trust our instincts, and use them to set appropriate boundaries that mean we get through this season refreshed rather than depleted.
Christmas can be a melting pot of emotions, but if you can take care of yourself you’ll get through it, and come out stronger with a new set of self care skills that are applicable throughout the rest of the year too.