This time of year is tough, both on body and on soul. In most parts of the country, it's cold, and either snowy or damp. The sun goes down early, and today, Dec. 21, 2013, is the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, with the sun setting in some places as early at 4:30 pm in the afternoon. When darkness comes, so too can loneliness and despair.
Ancient cultures created celebrations around this time of year specifically to bring soul-caring and warmth into this dark, sometimes painful time of year, where lack can often take center stage. Celebrations centering on light, warmth, plenty of good things to eat and to share remind people that the inner climate does not need to match the outer climate.
Giving to others is the focus of the Christmas season; buying and wrapping presents to delight those we love has become the symbol of nurturing. But it can also open the door to giving to ourselves the most precious gift of all; the gift of magic, of joy, of childish delight. And it doesn't take money to give this stuff to yourself, that's the beauty of it!
When wishing on stars seems to be the only way to comfort myself, I know it's time to give to my soul, not just my body. Of course, the body has to feel safe and comfortable, so I drag out my long johns, turtlenecks, heavy coat, thick socks, and boots that won't let the cold seep up through my feet. At night, I put on my super snuggly flannel pajamas as soon as I can.
My body is usually dictating to me what it most needs to feel good, and this usually includes some sort of carbs (which trigger a complex chemical process in the brain, resulting in the production of serotonin, thereby making the body feel good!) such as pasta and rice. Listen to your body! It's telling you what it needs to feel good, and this doesn't always mean stuff that is bad for you, like an excess of sugar. Trust your body!
How do you listen to your body? This is the other secret to soul-caring is to get quiet. Stop running around like a chicken with it's head cut off for just a few minutes, and breathe. During times of stress, which many of us associate with the holidays, our breathing becomes shallow and actually puts more stress on the body because we're not giving ourselves enough oxygen.
One of the best ways to give to yourself this holiday season is to sit in a quiet, comfortable chair, feet flat on the ground, eyes closed, and simply focus on breathing deep into your lungs, expanding them as much as possible. And then release the breath. Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, and notice how instantly your body starts to relax. Even doing this for just a few minutes will help your body relax and feel safe. When your body relaxes, your soul automatically feels better.
Notice all the things you're forcing yourself to do: shop for gifts, make holiday treats, go to parties, clean the house, create the perfect home setting to rival Sunset Magazine...whatever it is, once you allow your body to quiet down, notice if all the activities are really is something you want to do, or something you feel you should do.
If the list of shoulds is longer than the list of wants, it's time to start letting things go. This is another secret of soul-care this holiday season; bring your life back into balance by letting go of "the shoulds".
When you do something because "you should" you create a toxic energy around that activity or gift because it doesn't come from the pure inner child-like joy of "you want to". Instead of going to that holiday party because you "should put in an appearance" go outside and walk around looking at the Christmas lights! Holiday parties can be very stressful because of the unconscious need to impress others. If going to a party fills you with joy, then by all means go.
But if you're dreading having to make small talk, know you're gonna end up drinking too much to make yourself feel comfortable, or eating too much to keep your self occupied until the moment you can leave, then this is a sign this is a "should" instead of a "want". Give yourself the gift of saying no. Doing something as simple as strolling around looking at holiday decorations can achieve the same thing thing as going to a party: enjoying the magic and sparkle that is available to all.
We forget that saying "no" is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves, not just during the holiday season, but in our everyday lives. When you focus on activities that make you happy and feed your soul, you are truly giving to yourself and others.