This post was originally published in December 2017.
At this time of year, life can get overwhelming. There are social, familial, and professional obligations that all demand our full attention. While these demands don’t go away, they do seem more urgent at the end of the calendar year.
It is easy to get caught up in these demands and struggle to prioritize them (and sometimes they don’t allow for reasonable prioritization). It leaves a person feeling frazzled, burnt out, and hating the holiday season.
That isn’t the case for everyone, but I am sure we’ve all had moments in life where we would like to skip straight to January 2nd and move on with our lives.
We’ve run into others who feel this way: try going into a mall around this time of year. I’ll just leave it at that.
Piling on top of the usual life demands are calls for generosity from various organizations at the end of the year. Commercials are filled with pathos-based appeals to get the viewer to donate to various causes. Religious leaders ask their people to open up their wallets and give money, toys, or time to those who are less fortunate. Stories of tragic events lead to calls for donations of food, items, and blood. Passive social pressures increase: social media pages are flooded with posts from others announcing their generosity.
It gets extremely overwhelming.
The issue is, that when we think about the term “generosity” we think about it as giving to others. But look at the definition of the word:
Nowhere in the definition does it specifically define generosity as an act we give to others. It is an act of giving and love, but with no defined recipient.
When we get caught up in the minutiae we completely forget about the importance of taking care of ourselves. We are told that we should be generous with our time and care for others, but it’s extremely hard to care about another person if we don’t take care of ourselves.
If we care for our own needs first we can be more effective for others. And when everything becomes too overwhelming, we might be able to see through it with less stress and frustration.
The Importance of Self-Care
I saw this quote posted on a friend’s Facebook wall and it was the foundation for this post. I kept the original formatting:
self care isn’t always lush bath bombs and $20 face masks. sometimes, it’s going to bed at 8pm or letting go of a bad friend. it’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your impossible standards & understanding u are worth it. self care isn’t always luxury, but a mean for survival
Self-care quotes, personal revelations about self-care, articles expounding self-care all make the rounds on a fairly frequent basis. Some of them connect with us and others we either ignore or go, “yeah, if only it was that easy.”
All the wisdom in the world about self-care/self-generosity does not mean anything if it doesn’t connect with you. And let’s be blunt about the quotes/revelations/articles: they aren’t saying anything new. It’s all steeped in common sense.
We just need them to remind us every so often.
I am not an expert that can espouse pearls of wisdom of how to better take care of yourself, but I do recommend that you be more generous to yourself. Allow yourself to be more selfish.
But this isn’t the same when we think about being selfish. This is a loving selfishness.
Recognize that you need to take care of yourself before you can care for others. The Mayo Clinic recommends that caregivers take care of themselves first before they take care of others. They acknowledge that a person must be selfish if they are going to be an effective long-term caregiver.
Everyone is a caregiver. For some, it’s for another person; for everyone, it’s themselves. We all must care for ourselves.
Managing Your Time and Energy
The first step is figuring out what is draining your time and energy. What upsets you, what frustrates you, what makes you feel “less than.” Take a few moments, chances are some of the first things that pop into your head are the big ones and if they aren’t, they are great stepping stones to them.
For me, it was personal stress. But it wasn’t just limited to what I covered in the post. I have issues with spending too much time on social media. News stories depress me and I find myself getting stressed out over the topic and the comment section.
After you’ve identified what is causing your stress, take a moment to ask yourself: how happy would I be if I made specific changes? This could include changing your job, dropping social media time, or removing a toxic friend from your life. If the answer is: I would feel a lot better if this was out of my life, then consider the steps needed to make that happen.
For most problems there are two solutions: either you make a change or you do not make a change. You have to consider which of those two options is harder. The more difficult solution is probably what is right for you and you need to consider what your more nuanced options are from there.
This only works on a case-by-case basis, so I urge common sense and navigating what is feasible to maintain your safety and security.
For me, I had two options with my social media usage: either I drop it altogether or I keep going on. Dropping social media was the harder solution to consider because I used it as a means to keep in touch with colleagues, be included in event planning, and keep up-to-date with my interests.
Too much of my world was tied up in it, but I could not keep going the way that I was going. So I considered limiting my social media intake for a while, unfollowing news outlets, and curated updates. I also take frequent social media detoxes or fasts. I will deactivate my Facebook account for a week, delete the app off my phone, and not open up Twitter or Instagram.
I make sure to pay attention to how I am feeling whenever I spent time on social media. If I started getting stressed out, it is time to take a break for the rest of the day or longer.
Keeping to the changes is hard. Especially if the changes impact others. When dropping toxic friendships, people may try to discourage you; if you are leaving a bad job, your boss might try to keep you there; if you are limiting social media, Facebook really does have mechanisms in place to keep you coming back.
The key is to take care of yourself and stand by it.
If visualization helps, consider this scenario in your mind to keep strong: imagine your pet, child, or loved one was going through the same situation. What do you do or tell them to do in order to keep them safe and happy? Chances are that’s advice you should follow for yourself.
As you work your way through your self-care list, you will find that each obstacle becomes easier to identify and almost natural to deal with that you don’t need to think about it anymore. It will be easier to say no and do what you need to do to love yourself.
If you struggled with the idea of making the same lifestyle changes I’ve been making, consider starting from this point. It’s hard to start a journey of taking care of yourself if you aren’t in the mindset for it. Maybe after you’ve shown yourself a little love you might be able to take greater steps.
The “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version
- Identify what is taking time away from your needs
- Ask yourself if you will be happy if you made changes
- Ask yourself what would be the harder option for you in making those changes and develop a workable solution
- Create and implement a plan to make the necessary changes to care for yourself
- Stick to them even if outsider influences try to discourage you
- Repeat as necessary until it becomes second nature
While you are making these changes, consider a few ideas below on how to treat yourself at each step. For the rest of this holiday season, make sure you get something for yourself too.
Daily Personal Generosity
- Go on YouTube and learn a new skill
- Create a list of daily affirmations for various scenarios
- Daily checklist for taking care of yourself
- Social media detox
- 39 free ways to treat yourself
Occasional Personal Generosity
- A personal spa day
- Take a one-day class on a subject that interests you
- Create a plan & budget for something you’ve always wanted to do
- Visit a new place you’ve never been before
- Save up for a special present for yourself that you don’t have to share with anyone
As we go into the final week of 2017, I want to pose a challenge to everyone: consider starting 2018 by being generous and kind to yourself. Comment below with how you plan to be your own caregiver.
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Featured photo credit: Shutterstock