For me, December is the month of excess. It is the month of stuff, social activities, rich food, and lots of alcohol. I often get on board with this, (hence my cocoa post from last week!) But eventually, it catches up to me, and I feel completely off center. I feel unhealthy, tired, over-scheduled, and overstuffed. It’s kind of the opposite of holiday cheer.
And lately, I’ve been getting a lot of signs that I need to care for myself. Last weekend, I was at a bookstore waiting for my books to be magically gift wrapped (thank you Third Place Books!) and what caught my eye was a book cover for a Self-Care guide. I was drawn to that thing like a moth to a flame. It was all I could do not to buy it immediately, because just looking at the pages of people relaxing and doing yoga and at-home facials made my blood pressure drop. It was as if I was breathing in lavender and having a spa day, too! But I didn’t buy the book. Instead I put it back on the shelf. Why? Because I have a really, really hard time giving in to self-care. I want it, but who has time for it? I thought, “This is the perfect book for January.”
I have a hunch I’m not alone in this. I’d like to say my self-deprivation happened when I had kids, but it didn’t. Even before that I’d deny myself fun, food, sleep, even using the bathroom when I was working. I’d get so into my work that I would tell myself to just wait, and then I would get the food, bathroom break, sleep that I needed. But the thing is, I didn’t get those things when I was done. Instead, I’d move on to something else! Then I’d realize I was starving, I had to pee, and I was completely exhausted, and I’d wonder why! I did this when I was single, and I do it as a mom too, times about 100.
But the thing is, when I take care of myself, I’m much happier. I’m a better mom and wife. I’m a better friend and neighbor. I can take my friend’s kid their after school snack because they forgot it in the bus-line. I can drop off dinner for a friend who just had surgery. When I care for myself, I can care for others without feeling depleted.
Last week, two podcasts I listen to both posted episodes on self-care. I’m sure you’ve also heard this message from a lot of different sources, but I’m saying it here too because I need to write it on my own heart. It’s important to take care of yourself. Your basic needs are worth stopping whatever you are working on to fulfill. It might be inconvenient, but it’s necessary to avoid burnout. Go get that massage; take yourself to a movie you really want to see on your own; have a girls night; take a weekend nap.
My in laws have given me the amazing gift of watching my kids once a week, but it has taken me so long to let myself enjoy that! For the longest time, I spent that time running errands and feeling guilty. But that doesn’t honor the gift!
During this over-scheduled season, give yourself the permission to do what you need to do to care for yourself. Maybe you buy your side-dish instead of making it. Maybe you don’t put up a Christmas tree this year. Maybe you let go of wrapping 25 miniature advent gifts that end up lost in the couch cushions. Maybe instead you pencil in something each week that you’ll do to nurture yourself.
I will join you! It won’t be easy. You may feel guilty. You may feel selfish. You aren’t those things. You are loved and you are enough.