The holidays can be an especially challenging and stressful time for family, friend, and co-worker relationships. Combined with societal pressure for gathering and giving, and the uneasy ebb and flow of chronic conditions, it can also be a season of overwhelm, triggers, and flares. It doesn’t have to be. This time of the year can also be an opportunity to reflect on our personal rules of engagement and recommit to the behaviors and practices that support our self-worth and well-being.
In recent years, I have experienced a sea change in my overall physical, mental, and behavioral wellness as a result of lifestyle changes and inner exploration. My ongoing quest for physical and emotional healing has resulted in a 140-pound weight loss, sobriety from alcohol, as well as tobacco-free living. I have also learned to address anxiety and regulate my nervous system through regular mindfulness meditation, breathwork, and healing bodywork. A joyful side effect of these lifestyle changes is full remission of my psoriasis and resolution of its many related comorbidities.
Ever a work in progress, it takes daily intentionality and consistency to promote and maintain my emotional and physical wellness. When I am pressed and stressed, particularly at this time of the year, it is easy to be swept away by emotions, temptations, and expectations. My tendencies to overcommit, people-please, and shirk my own needs for the needs of others also present behavioral barriers that I am working to dismantle every day. All these challenges can lead to a breakdown in my feel-good frameworks if I’m not mindful.
One way that I am learning to take better care of myself is through setting and maintaining boundaries. Physically, this means sticking with my regular pattern of eating while enjoying holiday favorites in moderation, keeping up regular physical activity during this busy time of the year, honoring my limits, and making additional time to be still and de-stress amid the hustle and bustle. Emotionally, this means pausing to carefully consider social invitations and commitments, saying no with love when I need to, and releasing the guilt that may arise in doing so. So much of our societal merriment is hitched to consumption at this time of the year. And all the extra food, drink, travel, and doing can trigger flares and exacerbate symptoms – of the skin and of the heart and mind.
Open, honest, and straightforward communication with family, friends, and co-workers about how I am feeling is a key element to building (and repairing) healthy relationships. Somedays it is slow going. I am learning that free expression of my limits and needs – and actively listening to the limits and needs of others – is also a way to unlock deeper levels of caring and intimacy. This openness helps me feel more grounded and confident, and in turn, better able to make healthy choices and decisions that support my overall well-being. During the holidays, with stress levels and chances for misinterpretation heightened, it feels especially important. Maintaining supportive mental health appointments during the holidays is another way to prepare and take gentle care.
I am learning new ways of relating to myself and others. Some days I feel resourced and strong, and other days my resolve is faulty and flagging. And that’s OK. I am also learning to forgive myself when I falter, arrive again with sincerity, and face my days with gratitude and wonder – key holiday ingredients that all our personal recipes could use a little more of. My deepest intention this season is to remain healthy and calm, so that I may also remain open to the warmth and sharing that so easily flow between us at this time of the year. May I give and receive with integrity and heart, with love as my only expectation.
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