As the Holidays approach, you can feel the general population’s stress level collectively rise. If you bravely venture into a mall, or Costco, perhaps, anytime after Black Friday (I really, really dislike that name, by the way), the stress level is palpable and thick enough to cut with a knife (on sale, for $49.95 this week only!).
Many people worry about gift buying, not only the financial aspect, but just the general feeling of “I don’t have any freaking idea what to get ___ (fill in the blank)!” There are family members, whom you’ve purchased for what seems like an eternity, and getting something unique becomes an impossibility; there are family members who are difficult to buy for. There are friends who surprise you with a gift, and if you tend to be a scorekeeper, you just have to get them something! I’m not writing a single thing here that is original, so I don’t need to go on and on about what the stressors can be during the Holidays (did I mention awkward company parties?). I’m almost positive that a man invented the gift card; perhaps a man in his 20’s, and here is a widely known sentiment among a lot of fellas: We really aren't all that bothered that gift cards send the message “I’m either too lazy or obtuse to go out and buy an actual gift.” I’m getting sidetracked, and my breathing has become noticeably shallower here. I want to stay on the “gift theme,” but I want to move away from shopping, per se.
Holiday depression is well-documented, and because said Holidays fall at the end of the calendar year, there is, I believe, a strong tendency for people to sort of go crazy with their diet, alcohol consumption, and general disregard for their bodies. Why? Because we can get back on track – and more! – on January 1st! Sound familiar? I’ve been as guilty as the next person of using this strategically placed exemption for common sense and moderation, trust me.
People who are dissatisfied with their relationship situation can also become quite sad and withdrawn during the Holidays. Understandable, what with the propensity of jewelry commercials reminding us that if we don’t buy our loved ones specific necklaces, bracelets, and diamonds, we must be hermits and/or spinsters, destined to never kiss anyone again. Pure silliness, to think our happiness has to be tied to purchased goods, isn't it?
I could spend hours bloviating where our nation went wrong with our Holiday season, but I won’t. OK, maybe I will just for a minute. Commercialism hasn’t necessarily ruined the Holidays, but it sure has put a dent in it. As I get older, I start to understand why my Dad used to shudder and shake his head in amazement every Christmas morning, when looking at the sea of gifts and tattered wrapping paper. I heard him say – too many times to count – that when he was a child growing up during the Great Depression, one year he got a small bag of unshelled peanuts, an orange, and a couple of firecrackers … and he was thrilled about it. So, moving away from the What Is Wrong With Christmas In America theme now, I want to get to the heart of my message here. And here it is: This year, if the Holidays aren’t your favorite time of the year for whatever reason, I want you to try a new approach:
“Be a gift to yourself.”
There are many ways you can interpret this, and I don’t want to pigeon-hole you into only accepting my translation, but here is my translation and you can decide for yourself of its merit. First, I should explain where I heard this. It was a message, to me, from one of my Spirit Guides, several years ago. I was going through a bit of a tough time, and when things get tough for me, I tend to be really tough on myself. Bad habit, but it runs in my family. I was working hard on changing my mood, and I was exercising, and sometimes if I’m doing something mindless (such as a treadmill or elliptical trainer), I can go into a very shallow trance. My primary Guide, whom perhaps I’ll tell you about in more detail in another blog, will use these moments to slip messages to me, just through my thoughts. And the message he gave me that particular day (and it was nowhere near the Holidays, by the way) was to be a gift to myself.
I pondered this for several days, and then wrote out a short list of HOW I can be a gift to myself. I’m sharing this list with you; in hopes some of the things listed here will strike a resonant chord with you, too:
- Recognize your amazing qualities, and embrace them
- What if I don’t HAVE any amazing qualities? You DO, but sometimes just the simple act of acknowledging them is the hardest step. If you really are struggling with this, start with baby steps: list the things you sort of like about yourself: Maybe it's your sense of humor, your stubborn streak, your ears, your dancing ability, just list some stuff!
- List what you believe your faults are, too. The reason I word it like this is because so often, what we perceive as our own faults are, in reality, not faults at all.
- Talk to yourself (silently, or at the risk of raising eyebrows of those around you) out loud when you need a friend and none is available. Talk yourself out of whatever emotional or mental funk you find yourself in. This really works, by the way. Encourage yourself to just put whatever is making you sad behind you.
- Stay focused on the positive things you see and like about yourself. Foster these feelings daily. DAILY.
- Enter into a feeling of gratitude as often as you can. If you've never made a gratitude list, this can be a useful tool. List your favorite foods, music, activities, and things that make you feel good or happy. When you are in a down mood, mentally scan this list and see if you can improve your overall mood. It works more than you might think it would.
Be a gift to yourself by forgiving yourself for hurting others in your life. Self-forgiveness is a wonderful gift. Be a gift to yourself by taking time, every day, to be silent, to unwind, to breathe, to relax, and to recharge your Spirit. You’ll thank yourself many times over. Be a gift to yourself by taking care of your health. This, too, is the gift that keeps on giving. Sleep, exercise, diet, these are main cogs in this wheel, but not the only cogs. Did you know that showing kindness to others improves one’s health? Be kind to yourself by being kind to others. Do a Sub for Santa, or Secret Santa, or any of the other similar charitable causes that are readily available. A trend, if you can call it that, the past few years is for people to hang around department stores, to identify strangers who might be struggling financially, and to anonymously pay for their gift-buying before they know someone is doing it. Be a gift to yourself by not allowing the Holidays to stress you out. Make the conscious decision to not get stressed out, and you might be amazed at how you react to the same situations that used to totally stress you out. Awareness is important! Be a gift to yourself by trusting that your life is moving in the right direction. What? How can you be sure, and for sure how can I be sure of this? If a person decides that the Universe is friendly, I think it makes for an easier life compared to the person who thinks the Universe (life) is unfriendly. This is another topic I could do an entire blog on, and perhaps I will later on.
Lastly, be a gift to yourself by taking a break from the self-criticism. If you overeat in the next month, then make a pledge to exercise a little longer. It isn’t the end of the world as you know it if you gain three or four pounds between now and the end of the year. By loving yourself as you are, your body will follow suit.
Happiness can be found in any situation, and for a lot of people, it’s easy to find it this time of year. My favorite aspect? Just being around my loved ones. I hope the best gift you receive this year is that of you, to yourself. In other words, be a gift to yourself by taking it easy on yourself…
Happy Holidays and I hope to hear from and see many of you soon…