Hurray! Your entire extended family can get together for Thanksgiving! You emotionally brace yourself for the awkward verbal exchanges or silences with relatives you never really liked.
A last-minute work trip leaves your spouse stranded in an airport on the other side of the country. You wonder why this had to be the year you promised the kids and grandparents everyone would spend Christmas together.
Your holiday to-do lists take into consideration dinner guests' dietary needs, your husband's favorite foods and new outfits for the youngest children. You decide to skip this week's exercise classes because there's just too much to do.
Holiday season stresses get the best of all of us. What should be times of celebration can easily wear on nerves and lead to unhealthy habits. How can we remember, in the midst of it all, to nurture ourselves? I asked some wise women to share on the subject of self-care during the holidays. This is not medical advice, just women sharing with friends. But as you probably know, wellness starts with the simplest attitudes and habits we maintain for ourselves.
The picture of fitness, Shane Shirley-Smith looks more like a sister to the oldest of her three beautiful daughters. She understands that nurturing her family does not mean neglecting her own needs, "I think the most important thing we can do as nurturers is to nurture our own souls. We are not good to anyone if we do not take the steps necessary to insure our souls are full of light, love and well being. Health, nutrition, intellectual pursuits, goal setting and fulfillment of those goals as well as a sense of adventure are necessary for me personally to nurture myself." Shirley-Smith hosts a large community at Environmental Booty where she shares a wide range of wellness ideas and products.
I asked cancer survivor Britta Aragon the most important lesson she's learned about nurturing herself and loved ones. She graciously responded, "Through my experience with cancer and with caring for my father during his 8-year cancer battle, the most important thing I learned is how critical it is to take care of ourselves safely and gently. Most of us are just not used to being gentle with ourselves. We are critical, harsh, and demanding, and expect that we’re just going to bounce back from things like cancer and other adversities in our lives. Instead, we need to slow down, take stock of our lives, and pay attention. What needs to change? Do we need to eat better? Make exercise a priority? Find ways to reduce the stress in our lives? How can we take better care of ourselves today? Particularly during cancer treatments, we need to make safe self-care our number one priority. If something hurts, there is always something that will soothe that pain or discomfort. It could be something in your kitchen cupboard! It could be a warm bath with Epsom salts and oatmeal and a little lavender, or it could be an evening in with friends and a funny movie. We know what’s best for ourselves—we just have to give ourselves permission to believe that we deserve it." Aragon founded Cinco Vidas, which offers gentle personal care products. She's also written a heartfelt book titled When Cancer Hits that includes coping strategies for families.
I asked Aragon to address the problem many of us face, that because of career and/or family demands we truly don't believe we can make time to nurture ourselves. Aragon empathizes with our feeling short on time for nurturing, but she doesn't see it as a luxury. This cancer survivor frankly said, "The harsh reality is that if we don’t find that time, our bodies will demand it. They will become sick. It’s only a matter of time. If we continue to eat foods that don’t nourish our bodies, and go without the healing power of 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and pump toxins into our systems through food or personal care products, then eventually, the mind and body are going to break down and require that attention. It’s much better if we take a proactive approach, and make time—schedule time—for that afternoon walk, or that 15 minutes of meditation, or that extra hour of sleep. Our bodies will reward us with more energy and more vitality, and in the end, we’ll be more efficient at what we do."
Tomorrow at FlourSackMama.com: what some in the faith community say about nurturing holiday traditions.