Self Care Tips to stay Jolly During the Holiday Season
As we are in the midst of the holiday season, you might find yourself so much in the spirit of giving that you neglect your own self care and end up drained, stressed, or exhausted. This article will suggest ways in which you can care for yourself throughout the holidays, and will also touch upon the meaning of self care and what actually is the meaning of self.
Spiritual seekers are taught to be givers, compassionate, and caring of others. We may worry that taking time for self care comes in the realm of selfishness, especially during this holiday season of giving. You may think, I will just bake one more fruit cake to give to a friend, write one more Christmas card, or I will attend one more holiday party, when really inside you are running on empty. We must remember that self care is not selfishness in the negative sense of the word. In order to really be of service to others, we need to be fit, healthy, and of a balanced mind ourselves.
On that note, if you find your batteries running low during your third round of holiday shopping, or while baking that fourth batch of holiday cookies, take a step back and try the following holiday self care techniques:
1) Take inventory of your diet. It is ok to say a polite “no thank you” to all those holiday treats at work. It is not about watching your waistline, but about fueling your body with the proper energy sources (whole grains, fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, etc.) and minimizing the high sugar, artificial foods. At a party, accept a small sampling to be polite if needed, but stick to small portions of the sweets which can give you a short term sugar high but a bigger energy crash later. One tip is to fill your stomach with healthy snacks and vegetables before attending a party so that saying “no thanks” to the sweets will be easier. Avoid crash diets or the binging and purging cycle, but rather take time to eat healthy and balanced meals mindfully while sitting down, to keep your batteries running strong during the holiday season.
2) Take a spa day (or hour). If the holiday season seems to be go, go, go, schedule into your calendar some self care time, be it a trip to the spa, a massage, restorative yoga class, day at the beach, journaling, or any other healthy and relaxing activity. If you are always on the move, literally pencil this self care time into your calendar. If your mind starts screaming at you about your mile long to do list, gently allow your intelligence to inform your mind that you will be more productive after taking some rejuvenation time.
3) Exercise! Exercise reduces stress and renews energy; so, do not neglect your regular workout schedule during this busy time of year. If time is short you can at the very least go for a brisk walk, do some sit ups at home, or turn on your favorite music and take a dance break.
4) Meditate and breathe. Nothing helps bring a frenzied mind back to feeling grounded and calm like some meditation time. Whether you have a morning breathing practice (see page ? for one suggested calming breathing exercise), silent meditation practice, prayer or mindfulness session, mantra practice or visualization, starting the day with meditation (or taking a mindfulness break during a busy day) can help us step back and see the bigger picture of life and not get stressed out by the little details.
Meditation can also help us turn inwards and get in touch with the spiritual aspect of the holidays. After all, Jesus Christ did say to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let’s not neglect the loving ourselves part. This takes us to our last point of discussion on what really is self care in the spiritual sense. In order to care of the self, we need to know who the self is. Caring for the health of our bodies and minds is essential, as the body is a vehicle for us to move around in this world, and the mind a more subtle aspect of ourselves which can become our own best friend or worst enemy depending on our ability to guide our thoughts accordingly. However our bodies and mind change, our sense of self is constant. As Miley Cyrus recently posted on her Instagram account a photo from the Bhagavad Gita, our bodies were once in the baby form, but then grew, but inside there is a spark of consciousness or sense of self identity that remains constant throughout our lives despite our physical transformations. This spiritual spark, according to the Bhagavad Gita and other authentic spiritual texts, IS the real self.
How do we care for this true self, the spirit soul? That is a very large topic of discussion, but as a basic introduction, any activities that connect the self to its source, to the Supreme Soul, or God (known as Krishna among many other names), is an act of spiritual self care. Praying, hearing from authentic sources about God, glorifying Him, remembering Him, serving Him and His devotees, and offering one’s heart to Him in love, are all spiritual activities that enliven and bring happiness to the permanent self. Chanting the Maha Mantra, which is a form of prayer and meditation combined, is a very simple, free, and easy method of engaging in self care, and connecting to this source of pure love. The mantra is as follows:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
and is a call to be engaged in spiritual service. This form of meditation also has the favorable side effects of focusing and grounding the mind, helping one become more present, and bringing a sense of inner happiness and fulfillment to the self. You can chant anytime – either as a more structured sit down form of meditation on meditation beads, while walking, while engaged in other activities like cooking, cleaning, working, or shopping, or you can sing the mantra alone or with a group accompanied by musical instruments. You can even engage in self care by finding some youtube links of the beautiful Maha Mantra and simply listen to this meditation while performing your other holiday related duties. Additionally, you can take a break and visit your local Krishna temple or other place of worship for some spiritual self care during this busy holiday season in order to connect with the original meaning of these holy-days (holidays).
In summary, amidst your shopping marathon, string of holiday parties, pageants, and performances, take some time out for self care. Eat healthfully, plan some self nurturing time, exercise, and meditate or pray, and in this way keep your body, mind, and yourself – the spirit- in a balanced, energized, healthy, and happy state during the holidays. Your sense of calm will then rub off on others, and you will then be sharing actual holiday joy and cheer, rather than just barely getting through the season while feeling stressed and tired.
Happy Holidays and Hare Krishna!