- Holidays normally involve some stress. Adding other stressors like our jobs (or lack of them), relationship challenges, illness, family responsibilities and now…almost two years of a world-wide pandemic, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and frustrated.
- BUT, we can actually THRIVE through the holidays and come out of them feeling “happy-ish”. That is, we can experience enough calm, fun, joy, connection, and so on to have a sense of thriving through them rather than barely surviving.
- Self-care is important everyday and even more so during the holidays. Make it a priority!
- Here are tips on how to care for our bodies, our minds/emotions, and our relationships.
- Physical care
- Get enough good quality rest.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat healthy food.
- Mental/Emotional care
- Good quality rest helps here too.
- Give yourself plenty of empathy (self-empathy).
- Relationship care
- Practice self-empathy “in the moment”.
- Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg called this “emergency first-aid self-empathy”.
- Ask for empathy from someone who will listen and reflect back your feelings and needs.
- Practice self-empathy “in the moment”.
Hey Doyle here. I want to share with you some tips about how to not just gut through the remainder of this holiday season, but to actually thrive, emotionally, physically, and in your relationships. You know, a lot of us, we come into any given holiday season and there’s relationship pressures and family obligations and pressures. Some of us have job pressures or unemployment that we’re dealing with. We could have some kind of physical illness that we’re managing and, and just on and on the list can go. Then, throw in a worldwide pandemic, which is what all of us are facing and working through, at this point in human history and things can get really crazy, right? So, I have shared over the years, these tips with my clients and students, and I hear back from them that they’re helpful, that they help calm things down, help them get through the holidays and actually have what I’ve come to call “happy-ish” holidays.
In other words, there’s enough joy, enough calm, enough peace, that we can say, “Yeah, it was a, a good holiday season. There may have been some bumps along the way, but overall we had ‘happy-ish’ holidays.” So my wish for you is that these things will help you get through the holidays and arrive at the new year and be able to look back on them with some fondness and good memories.
Before we dive in. I just want to take you through a little exercise that I do quite often through my day, holidays or not. And I teach this to the folks who study with me or coach with me. So wherever you are, if you’re driving, you may not want to do this, but, if you’re seated, go ahead and close your eyes, if you’d like, if you’re somewhere where you could do that. And let’s take three deep breaths together. If you want, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a nice deep breath in through your nose, fill up your lungs, and then just release the breath.
And as you do, just imagine releasing whatever tension you might be feeling right now, whatever stress. If your mind has been running 90 miles an hour, just, just let it take a beat here and just be still for a moment. All right. Another deep breath in and just slowly release it.
And one more time, deep breath in, slowly release, imagining the stress just washing out, leaving your body, maybe moving out through your pores or through the tips of your toes, the tips of your fingers. However, you can imagine it.
Now. I want you to think about these next few minutes. You’re watching this video because you’re interested in figuring out how to have a happier holiday. So set the intention to listen. If you’re able and want to, you might want to jot down a couple of notes as we go through. And then, set the intention to put these things into practice. You can start as soon as the video is done, or even as we’re going through the video, you can do some of these things along with me. All right. Okay. Let’s dive in.
So the first area I want to talk about is our physical being, our bodies.
A lot of times when we come into the holidays, we’re not only stressed with, all of the emotional and mental stuff, but we’re not getting good rest and it’s important year round to really pay attention to the rest, the quality of our rest. All the more so during the holiday season, especially if you have young ones and you’re trying to manage all of the holiday stuff that parents get to manage with, with young children at home. So as best you can, try to arrange your schedule and so on so that you can get as close to eight hours as possible. And if you struggle, with not sleeping well or not being able to get a good night’s rest, maybe think about getting some kind of help.
And I’ll talk about nutrition in a minute. That can be one area you might want to think about reducing your caffeine and sugar intake, speaking of nutrition. Along with that, maybe try to add some things like leafy greens, or more of them, raw or steamed vegetables and, the drill, right? You probably already know if you’re putting too much junk into your body. So just try to pay a little bit more attention and not let stress dictate what you eat, but let your intention, your mind, your good will toward yourself, right, to be healthy, to sleep, to get good rest and so on. So there’s rest and there’s nutrition.
And then of course, there’s exercise. If at all possible, try to be taking a nice brisk walk. Well, some of you live, in, in warm climates so take a, a nice, 20, 30 minute walk each day, if at all possible. And if you’re not able to get outside, maybe you have a piece of exercise equipment that’s been collecting dust in the corner? Pull that out and give yourself a good 20, 30 minute exercise: rowing machines, stationary, bike, whatever you might have. And if you don’t have anything, maybe you have some stairs in your home? Make use of the stairs, take 20 minutes and just go up and down the stairs as, as quickly as you can and, be safe too. All right. So rest, good rest, good food, good exercise.
You probably already know that if you’re not already doing that, but maybe you’ve had periods in your life where you have attended to those things, you recall how good you feel and how much better quality your life is.
So I encourage you, get back, into that habit if you’ve, straight away. And if you’re doing well in that area, great, keep it up because holiday seasons, with all their stress, can take a toll on you, and it’s great to keep yourself in good shape. All right, that’s helping our bodies thrive through the holidays.
Next we want to take care of our mind and emotions. Again. Rest is really important. When you’re so overtaxed, you’re burning the candle at both ends, as the saying goes, it’s really hard to maintain emotional and mental balance. If you’re putting too much, sugar or caffeine or whatever into your body, then it’s really hard to maintain mental clarity. So good rest again, will help with the mental and the emotional wellbeing through the holidays.
Next is a tool that I teach. I learned it from the late Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, through his book and, being with him in live training. His book was called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. It was one of those books, it’s a cliche, I know, but, reading it literally changed the course of my life for the better. It was just an incredible shift in my perspective, and in my behaviors and in the quality of my relationships, all across the spectrum of my relationships from my personal family relationships out to how I talk to the checkout person at the grocery store.
The skill that I want to encourage you to use is what Dr. Rosenberg called self-empathy. Empathy is a learned skill. People often conflate it or confuse it with compassion. What empathy does is it helps us unlock the potential for compassion in our hearts and minds. It gives us access to it.
The way it works is you’re going along through your day and something happens that stirs up some negative emotion. It could be something a relative says to you, or traffic, trying to get home from the shopping mall or trying to get in and out of the shopping mall, whatever it might be. Something sparks some negative feelings. What you want to do is pause again, take a deep breath or two, ask yourself if you don’t already immediately know, some people have to kind of stop and ask themselves something’s going on. For example, “I’m just really agitated right now. What am I feeling? Oh, well, look, I I’m feeling agitated. Oh, what else am I feeling? I’m kind of ticked off, or I’m scared.” Maybe something happened in traffic that kind of shocked my system.
Name the feeling. And I’m not saying necessarily out loud though. A lot of times I do kind of talk to myself, talk myself through it, but you want to name it because what that does, neurologically we have the reaction, which stimulates the limbic brain, right? That fight, flight, and freeze? Naming the feeling turns the logical brain back on, and that’s important, so that then we can create some space between the stimulus, the thing that happened that sparked the emotion and our response, and we can learn, we can train ourselves to be able to respond to life’s situations rather than automatically react. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in reactivity mode, a lot of times it doesn’t play out with the results that I really want.
We can name our feelings, turn on that logical brain. And then what you want to do is say, okay, I’m I’m feeling really, agitated right now. What, what am I needing? What need do I have that’s not being met? We can use words like desire or want or longing, as synonyms for needs.
But the idea is the event happens, we get our emotions sparked and then that if it’s negative, that’s because there’s something that we need or want in that situation that we’re not getting. We want to identify that.
So let’s say for example, I’m in traffic and I’m going to get home later than I wanted. And I really want to have time with the kids, a little extra time in that evening. Maybe we had something kind of special planned for the holidays. And if I’m late, we might not get to do it at all. Or we might not get to have as much time as I had hoped for. So the need underneath my frustration, my agitation sitting in traffic is I want that time with my family. I want that connection. I want that love. I want to be present with my kids and give them, my best self, right? And have some fun and play or whatever it might be together. I’m maybe worried because I’m concerned that that’s not going to happen.
Also maybe, I promised, made a promise to the kids that I would be home and I want to be in integrity with my promises in integrity with my kids. So I think you get the idea.
So, the event happens, we take a moment, take a breath, identify what we’re feeling. And if it’s negative, we want to look for an unmet need. Now, when I teach my online course or my live courses, we go into depth, we spend a whole two hour module on this and we talk about how to celebrate positive things that happen as well. But for now, since we’re talking about holidays and stress, we’ll, we’ll focus on these.
That’s self-empathy. An event happens. You identify your feelings. You trace that thread to the unmet need. And then what you do with that is, you’ll find that that unlocks compassion for yourself. Now it’s not self-pity. It’s not all “poor me.” You know, “I’m a victim”, but it’s just, it’s genuine care in response to this painful, stressful situation.
A definition I really like of compassion is what the Buddha gave 2,600 years ago or so. He said, “Compassion is the trembling of the heart at the sight or the sound of the pain of another human being or another being, human or not.”
Maybe you’ve had a situation where you’ve been out, maybe at the shopping mall and you hear a child cry out? You can tell by the sound that they’re scared. Maybe they’ve gotten separated from their parents. And what happens inside of you when you hear that? You, you have that kind of tremor go through you, right? And you want to help. You want to reach out, with care and protection for the child. That’s compassion.
Again, self-empathy can help us access compassion for ourselves in those moments when we’re stressed and, and upset. So that’s taking care of our mental and emotional wellbeing through the holidays. Now I want to take a look at dealing with our relationships.
You know, there are two sides to this, at least the way I’m thinking about it for this presentation. One is, sometimes we don’t get to be with the people we really love and with whom we want to spend time. And that can be anywhere from mildly disappointing to heartbreaking, depending on the relationship, how close we are to the person, maybe how long it’s been since we’ve been able to be with them and so on. And then another aspect is sometimes we find ourselves spending more time than we enjoy with people we don’t enjoy, right? And that has its challenges as well. So I want to talk about both of those scenarios and show you how you can use self-empathy in each one, as well as what I call or what we call asking for empathy.
And that’s simply, you ask someone you trust who will listen to you and can reflect back to you what you’re feeling and needing and just help you process it, help you and offer you their compassion around the thing that’s happening and help you access your compassion for yourself.
Let’s think, for a moment, about the situation where you’re not going to get to be with someone you love. Sadly, this year we’re in our second holiday season with COVID and some of us have lost loved ones and friends to COVID and this will be our first holiday without them. That’s one of the heartbreaking examples. Or maybe we have plans to get together with some loved ones and something happens that the plans fall through. And again, depending on the relationship, it could be mildly disappointing or, really deeply disappointing.
At any rate, what we can do then is we can give ourselves some time or try to set aside some time, and I like to suggest that you do this with some intention and purpose. Give yourself half an hour or whatever you can carve out of your schedule. And if you’re going to give yourself some empathy, maybe you want to write this out in a journal and, write just a brief description of what’s happening. An as an example, “I was really hoping to see aunt Mary, this year and be with her because we have such a close relationship and I’m not going to get to see her and I’m feeling…” Then write out all of the feelings. You’ll probably have several layers of feelings. Just give your heart and your mind a chance to explore them. There’s certainly going to be sadness and maybe some frustration or, depending on the situation, maybe a little bit of anger, but explore them.
Then look at those and say, “Okay, I’m, I’m feeling really sad because, I love her so much. I know how much she loves me. And we, I just really wanted that sweet face-to-face, hold-each-other’s-hands kind of connection this year. And I’m not going to get to enjoy that with her.”
Then allow ourselves to connect with that longing, that unmet desire. I’m not suggesting that we wallow in it. What I’m suggesting is that we really explore it. The way I like to do it and teach it is to explore the energy of it in our bodies. Okay. There is sadness. Now just imagine, get a picture of Aunt Mary’s face in your mind and in your heart, and just feel into that. Where do you feel that sadness in your body? Maybe you feel it in your gut or in your heart area? Maybe you feel it in your throat, or wherever. Then tune into what are some of the qualities of it? Does it have a taste or a smell, a sound? Does it have a shape, a weight to it, a temperature? Just let your mind play with it. The reason you want to do that is because the more clarity you have about that energy and about how it’s impacting your body, the more compassion will come up for you. And the compassion can be really healing and lift you up when you’re feeling knocked down or hurt or sad.
Now that it’s how you would do it as self-empathy. Similarly, you could ask someone, “Hey, would you sit with me let me talk through this and offer me some, some empathy? Offer me some reflection?”
What you want the person to do is, listen to you and then reflect back what they hear you say. Not to mimic you word for word, but just say, “Yeah, I hear how sad you’re feeling, because you’re not going to get to see your and be with your Aunt Mary this year. I hear how painful that is and just how much you love her and, how much you enjoy the love that she gives to you.” And so on. So the other person reflects back, using the words that you’re using about your feelings and your needs and longings.
Again, it’s not parroting or mimicking, but it’s being a mirror to you so that you can hear back. I don’t know about you, but sometimes even when I can name the feelings, I don’t get the full impact until I hear somebody bounce that back to me and coming back in a slightly different voice, it hits my ears, my heart, my mind, and, and a, a deeper way. And I can get more healing from that experience when I get the empathy from somebody else.
So that’s being in that situation where we don’t get to be with someone we love and doing self-empathy or empathy. And then <laugh> right…there’s the situation where, oh, gosh, I’m going to be at a dinner or a party or a family gathering with someone I really don’t enjoy! And there’s all the stress leading up to that, right? And all the dread and whatever comes with that.
Then you get there and let’s see, maybe it’s one of your in-laws that you have a challenge with. And I probably shouldn’t pick on in-laws, but that’s what’s coming to mind in the moment. Things are going along and one of the in-laws makes a comment that just pushes that button of yours! And, oh boy, here we go. You know, this again!
Dr. Rosenberg taught us how to do what he loved to call “emergency first aid, self-empathy”. It’s right there in the moment. And how does that work? Well, we hear the thing, the button gets pushed. We feel that rush of emotion. Rather than reacting, we take a breath, we pause and we turn inward. And again, you can do this in just a few seconds, but we turn inward and we have a little quick conversation, an empathy conversation with ourselves inside our own heads and hearts.
And it could be something like, “Damn! I don’t believe she said that to me! I’m really mad right now. And I, that hurt. Yeah. I’m mad and I’m hurt because doggonit, I I’d like some consideration and some, some respect,” or whatever it is that comes up for you. So just that much.
Let me break that down. We experience the trigger, if you will, or the stimulation, the thing that the in-law said. We have the rush of emotion. We identify the emotions, we name them, right? Turn the logical brain back on. And then we look at, okay, what needs are not being met in, in this situation? And by doing just that much, it again creates that space for us so that we can then respond. Our response might be to turn around and leave the room, or, whatever it may might be. Maybe we try to respond with something humorous to try to break the tension or ease the tension, whatever it might be. But, we can be in choice. Then at that point, which is really key, we want to give ourselves the advantage, what I call the Empathy Advantage, to have choice in how we respond to life. And by exercising, using the tool of self-empathy, we create space for ourselves to make a choice about how we’re going to respond.
Then we might ask one of our siblings or our partner or somebody to, step into another room with us and just give us some quick empathy in that situation. Once we get out of that situation, get back home or whatever, it’s a good idea to, especially if it’s something that kind of went deep? Went beyond surface level, as far as the intensity of the hurt. Take some time to process it. Write in your journal, process it, by writing in your journal, or again, asking a friend to give you some empathy.
So we’re in the holidays. We’re coming into the home stretch here toward the end of the holiday season. If you’ve been experiencing some stress and discomfort and some pressure, now’s a good time to just do a reset, do a, a physical, mental, emotional reset.
And you can do that by getting, a good night’s rest, if at all possible, or maybe during the day, take a little power nap. If you need to kind of reset your physical system, you can put good fuel into your system with the foods that you choose. And then you can exercise your system, get your heart pumping, get your lungs working, get the oxygen and the blood and blood flowing and removing the toxins and spreading the good stuff through your body and up into your brain. Then again, resting to take care of your emotional and mental being and using the tool of self-empathy, particularly when painful or stressful things come up for you. Finally, in the context of our relationships, if you’re not going able to be with some people you love this year, give yourself some time to really mourn that.
And by mourning, I mean, process the sadness, let yourself experience the sadness of that. I’m not talking about wallowing in it or going down into self-pity, but experience that loss for what it is. Name it and feel it, and then let it process on through.
Here in our Western culture, we, we don’t often do a very good job of helping each other learn and know how to grieve or how to mourn our losses. So self-empathy is a good opportunity and a good tool to help you do that.
Then if you’re going to be with people who we don’t enjoy, again, keep your self-empathy, a tool, charged up and ready, right. And be able to process in the moment. And then again, ask a friend, a loved one to give you some reflection, give you some empathy after the fact to help you work that through.
I hope you have gotten something of benefit from this. If you would maybe leave a comment below with, something you’re taking away of value from what I’ve shared.
I just really want to wish you peace and joy and wellbeing and happy-ish holidays!
All right. Thanks for watching. I’ll be back again soon with, a video at the beginning of the year, sharing with you, a new framework that I learned from Dr. Rosenberg about how we can make our lives more playful and turn work and the other things we do in our lives into an opportunity to play.
Happy holidays or happy-ish holidays! Take good care of yourselves. We’ll see you soon!