People love talking about “self-care” for mums. It’s all the rage. And, on an intellectual level, I get it. Of course it’s important to look after yourself, you’ll feel at your best when you take care of yourself, yadda yadda. I smile and nod and make note of the good ideas… that I’m never going to follow.
You see, self-care just has a big image problem for me, starting with the fact that the word shares far too many letters with “self” for my liking. Then there’s the fact that it always seems to revolve around “me time” which, again, has a self-obsessed ring to it that just doesn’t sit well with me.
But here’s the thing: self-care is essential for anyone who a) wants to be a good mum, b) have a good relationship with their partner and a) not lose their mind – and these goals are never more important – or more tested – than at Christmas.
Despite it’s cute and fluffy appearance, let’s get real here: Christmas is a Nutribullet for blending stress, anxiety and conflict into one overwhelmingly toxic brew. If I don’t practise some kind of self-care I will suffer. But instead of thinking of it as an indulgence, I consider it as building up my resilience for the physical and emotional marathon that is the school holidays. So here they are, six training tips I’m following to navigate the holiday season without losing my shit.
1. Turn it off. The TV, your phone, social media, whatever is the poison that makes you feel like you’re not living up to expectations: shut it down. If going cold turkey is too much, keep away only on certain times of your day/week. Sunday night is a good time for me. The truth is, no matter what form of media we choose, we are just going to be bombarded with messages of things we “need” and visions of what our Christmas “should” look like. Rubbish. Your version of the holidays won’t look like anyone else’s. Fact. And the sooner we silence that know-it-all voice that subtly hints that we’re doing it all wrong, the better.
2. Meet a friend. This means making time to catch up face to face – not a text, not a status update, not an email or IM. Sure, we can contact friends faster and easier than ever, but communicating via screens can perpetuate a facade that’s simply not true. Case in point: I caught up with a girlfriend the other day who had recently won an extremely competitive and lucrative award for her work – and had been sharing news of her brilliance through FB & LinkedIn to widespread applause. In real life, she confessed she hadn’t stopped crying for three weeks straight as she negotiated an exhausting messy divorce. I would never have known if we hadn’t taken time for each other – me to give her my utter support and also to understand that seeing one facet of someone’s life never reveals the full story.
3. Smell something nice. Spritz some essential oils. Use a nice soap. Light a candle. Nope, you don’t have to sit down and gaze at it in meditative wonder, you just have to smell it. Breathe deeply and take 10 seconds – just 10 – to calm, chill and still your mind.
4. Do your grocery shop online. If there is a hell, I reckon it looks like Coles on December 24th. Think granny fighting granny for the last scrap of broccoli, mums juggling screaming kids and 17 bottles of thickened cream and checkout queues stretching down the food aisles as far as the eye can see. It’s the kind of scenario to rob you of Christmas cheer faster than you can say “happy holidays!”. The solution: don’t go there. Literally. Organise your Christmas shopping online five days before – and let the best granny win.
5. Acknowledge the spirit behind the season. I don’t mean to get all Hallelujah! on you, but if you were to boil the entire Christmas hoo-haa down to one word it’s this: giving. No matter your religious persuasion, no matter whether you get into the singing, lights or shopping, putting others first and giving to those less fortunate lifts a sagging spirit faster than a Taylor Swift track. Make time to give – and to receive – and you’ve laid got the foundation for silly season happiness sorted.
6. Allow yourself to feel, crack and keep going. A meltdown in December, whether it’s over your kids, your partner or your career does not mean your life is broken. A crack is a signpost, signalling change. Don’t waste energy beating yourself up about it. Feel the feels, learn and make some changes. Like Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Does Christmas stress you out? Do you practise self care in general? What are your tricks to staying sane in the silly season?
More Tips for Surviving the Festive Season:
- Simplify Christmas Hosting and Still Have the Best Time Ever
- 7 Tips to Prepare Your Home for the Festive Season
- 5 Totally Photogenic Christmas Day Outfits