Whether you like it or not it’s the time of giving. Giving gifts, giving your time to family, shopping, traffic, going to obligatory work functions, holiday parties and giving your immune system an extra test with travel. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful and give of yourself too much you end up sick, stressed out, overwhelmed or the Scrooge.
As a stress reduction specialist (I’ve been using this term more and more since someone told me this is one of my specialties), I find that when people don’t take care of themselves during the year, the holidays become overwhelming, tiring and stressful. In a time when there is much to celebrate, many people focus on the obligations rather than the attitude of gratitude or truly gifting another from the heart. Furthermore, when it’s time to receive a gift from someone, people don’t know how to truly appreciate this act because we’re burnt out, feeling unworthy or again, being Scrooge.
There is a quote that I live by, “learn to love yourself before you can truly love another.” This same psychology can also be used when it comes to gifting. Learn to gift yourself before you truly give to others. Easier said than done. Learning how to gift yourself is learning how to appreciate and find gratitude for your own life and authentic self. Learning how to gift yourself also teaches you how to receive. Yes, RECEIVE. Gifting is an act of moving energy from yourself outward. When you gift yourself, you practice receiving, or moving energy from the external to the internal. Receiving is just as important as giving but in a culture that is focused on the external objects to make us happy, many of us have forgotten how to receive with an open heart. I’m encouraging you this holiday season to gift yourself by taking care of yourself and doing things that you find indulgent but are actually very simple. Watch your thoughts when you decide to gift yourself and notice how you receive. Also notice how you give. The holidays are such a beautiful time of the year for celebration and fun, take care of yourself and learn the balance of giving and receiving to truly optimize this special time of the year.
Top ten gifts to give yourself this holiday season:
Breathe! Take 5-10 releasing breathes in the car, in the shower, bathroom stall, really ANYWHERE. How to: Take a nice deep slow breath in through the nose. Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds and gather up any emotions or stress. Then exhale, breathe out, with a sigh or the sound of ‘haaaa.’ Repeat as necessary. Caution: you can cause lightheaded. Please do not overdo. 5-10 breaths is plenty!
Mooooove your body. Remember to move and stretch during your travels. If you’re driving, during your rest stops walk around the parking lot, do some push ups on a bench or some squats in the parking lot. Yes, people will look at you but again, by taking care of yourself (and having fun doing so) gives permission for all the other achy travelers to move too. If you’re flying, remember to flex your legs, ankles and glutes/buttocks regularly. When you’re waiting in lines try to balance on one leg. Maybe even jog or speed walk to your next gate, not because you’re about to miss your flight but because you’ll feel better once you get there.
Foot massage. Did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through your whole body when you massage your feet. Foot reflexology is based on this principle. How to: Sit on the floor a comfy chair, cross one of your legs and begin massaging the heck out of your foot, ankle and calf. Better yet, get a friend or loved one to do it for you! If you don’t have a foot or hate feet, keep reading to check out another gift you can give yourself.
Self Oil Massage. That’s right, oil yourself up. Use a natural oil like coconut oil, sesame oil (not toasted, it should look golden), olive oil or jojoba oil. gently warm the oil in a double boiler, coffee warmer or on the stove. Be careful not to burn yourself or overheat the oil. If the oil begins to smoke, start over. With your warm, body temperature oil, begin by applying some to the scalp. Then cover the body making circles at joints and long sweeping motions on limbs and torso. Let the oil sit for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy your favorite cup of tea (gift yourself #4) and then take a hot shower without soap to wash the oils off. This is an ancient healing secret from the East. It is a therapy to create balance of the body and all the tissues. If you go to a spa and get this done you’ll be dishing out $150-$350. Yes, gift yourself!
Hand massage. Like the foot, did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through the whole body when you massage your hands?! Massage each hand for 10 minutes. Better yet, have a friend or loved one massage it for you. Kids are great at giving hand massages and very healing and intuitive by nature.
Indulge in your FAVORITE cup of tea or coffee. Not sure about you, but I tend to buy tea in bulk, not a high-end tea but something I know will GET THE JOB DONE. My husband who is a coffee drinker tends to do the same. HOWEVER, why not give yourself permission to go out and buy your all time favorite tea or coffee for the holidays? Sipping on it while you get a foot massage or after you’ve given yourself a full body massage will feel like you’re the Queen or King of the neighborhood. Which I’m sure you already are 😉
Sleep in as long as you want. Arrange with your partner, spouse or family to give you one morning where you can sleep in as long as you want. Some of you already do, so don’t choose this as a gift to yourself. Others of you, including myself, have pets or kids to take care of. Sleep is so incredibly important to reducing stress from the body and mind. When we don’t give ourselves permission to get sleep until we naturally wake up, we are adding more stress to our lives.
Do one thing you LOVE to do. Novel idea, right?! In the clinic, I like to give my clients homework assignments between sessions. The most often “prescribed” homework is asking a client to do something they absolutely LOVE to do but never do anymore. One lady in New York loved walking around looking at the old architecture and taking photos. She hadn’t done this in over 10 years even though she walked everywhere and lived on the upper east side, an amazing area for her passion. Another lady just wanted time to sit with her cat in her lap, turn off all the gadgets and watch the world walk by. Another man wanted to continue to write on a screen play he began 18 years earlier. By giving themselves permission, each of these people did what they LOVED! You should have seen the smiles on their faces during our next session. TRY IT, that’s why you LOVE IT!
Buy yourself a gift. In the Business and Money section of the Times this week, there is an article New Holiday Tradition: Buying Yourself a Gift. While I’m attempting to keep the gift yourself idea focused on health and wellness, I have to admit there is something incredibly satisfying and healing when you buy yourself a gift for no reason. A REAL GIFT that is, not something for the house, your pet or work. A gift is something you’d probably never buy for yourself because of the thirty reasons of why you could use something else…for the house, pet or kids. It doesn’t have to be something huge, lavish or expensive. Maybe it’s hand lotion, a favorite candle or a hard-cover book. Imagine that, a real book?!
Write or express your dreams, goals and aspirations for 2013. This is not the same as a New Year Resolution. This is about giving yourself permission to dream and dream big. Not only learn from the past and decide to move forward with all the wisdom you’ve gained but maybe in this process learn something new about yourself. Attempt to get out of the usual things you dream or think about and go wild. Questions to ask yourself: If money weren’t an issue, I’d__________. If I had all the time in the world, I’d_____ or may day would ____________. When I look back at this time next year, I want to feel __________ or be able to say, I did ______________. I want to learn about _____ in 2013. The biggest lessons of life have come from ___________________. I’ll use this knowledge in 2013 to _____________.
Choose an Attitude of Gratitude. The holidays are the perfect time to point out who’s glass is half-empty and whose glass if half-full. Unfortunately, the half-empty mentality is much easier to follow and fall into its unforgiving jaws. IF however, you are a half-full or overly full mentality type, keep it up this holiday, even around friends and family. You may get picked on, you may even be asked the most silly questions like why or how can you be so happy, but more importantly you give others permission to live this way as well. I can’t think of a better gift…and it’s free! Remember, even the smallest and most simplest things can turn our world around.
Caution: If you feel silly gifting yourself, you’re not alone. More importantly, you’re probably doing it right. Don’t worry what others think, just have fun. After all, the holidays are a time for having fun and being silly!