by Amanda Votto
Years ago, my concept of “self-care” consisted of getting massages, drinks with friends, and going on a good ole’ shopping spree.
However, about six years ago, I found myself in a state of pure exhaustion — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained. This state of depletion was the catalyst for my personal growth and rebirth. I began to discover what true self-care was and it didn’t include any of my prior go-to’s. We all have it in us to come out stronger than ever so if you find yourself in a similar state of exhaustion, hang on … there is always room for growth and true inner healing.
My path to healing led to me to mindfulness. Fast forward six years, I am now a mindfulness teacher and I am passionate about teaching others what I needed the most in my exhausted state.
There has been a lot of talk about mindfulness recently but not everyone knows exactly what it is. Mindfulness is a way of being present with life as it is happening in the moment. It is most commonly defined as paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judgment. It is a way to train our attention to be in the present moment instead of lost in thought about the past or future. Through mindful practice we can experience all that is available to us in the present moment, which includes our sensory experience, our thoughts and our emotions.
Mindfulness can be practiced by formal meditation and also by informally bringing your attention to what you are doing while you are doing it. Sounds simple, right? Well, give it a try. Right now, you can bring your attention into your body. Sense your feet against the floor, feel your body sitting in your chair, and now begin to focus on your breath. You may soon notice that your attention is all over the place! This is normal.
With practice, we can train our attention to return over and over to the present moment by returning to our breath. This is a very simplified example of mindfulness practice but there are many resources available for guided practices online (my guided practices are under “inspiration” section of my website). It is essential to understand that mindfulness is a process and needs to be experienced routinely in order to reap all of its benefits. It is a way of building present moment awareness that is cultivated overtime, peace by piece.
As we enter into the holiday season, we may find ourselves, at times, physically and emotionally exhausted. I have complied a list of ways that we can mindfully approach this busy time of year.
Remember to check in with yourself. Mindfulness cultivates self-awareness. It can be life changing to take a pause from the hustle and bustle and check in with what your inner experience is. Inquiring within and asking yourself- what is showing up for me? How does my body feel? What is my mood state? What is on my mind? This is not a time to judge and wish things were different. It is about have a real interest in yourself and what is present for you. This inner inquiry builds a connected relationship where we are able to know ourselves better and then make choices that are supportive for our well-being. For example, if I check in and notice there is tension in my shoulders, anxiety present as my mood state and my thoughts are filled with worry. I may choose to make more time for meditation, or get proper sleep, or go to a yoga class. My choices would be coming from an intention of self-care, knowing from my inner experience that I need a little TLC.
Healthy boundary setting is another essential skill to implement during this holiday season. When we are aware of our inner experience, we build our ability to learn the “language” of our body. Our body is always speaking to us, we just need to learn to tune in. If we are overextending ourselves, you can feel that tension in the body. It is important to say no to things that you don’t want to do or just don’t have the space for right now. Saying no is an act of self-care. It can be hard to do for many reasons and we may feel guilty, but nothing is worth jeopardizing our sense of well-being.
Begin to cultivate patience with yourself. When we believe that we are exactly where we need to be (even if it is not where we want to be) in our life, we can relax and know that life is always working for us and not against us. Take a deep breath and know that in this moment, there is nothing to “fix.” Accepting ourselves for who we are in this moment and where we are in our life’s journey, is a radical act of self-compassion.
Use every experience as an opportunity to learn. If you are feeling overwhelmed or a constant sense of busyness, begin to be curious about how that feels in the body. How does the feeling of being overwhelmed show up in physical sensations? Perhaps it is a tightness in the chest, shallow breath, or tension in the head. Begin to notice and bring a compassionate witness to your experience. The beautiful thing is that we don’t need to do anything, except to simply be with what is here. This is the heart of self-care for me. To acknowledge what I am feeling and extend compassion to myself for whatever is present. This takes courage and a dedication to feel our full range of emotions.
Take time to be alone. Perhaps find a few minutes a day to be quiet- meditate, journal, or go out in nature. This very act is an act of self-compassion.
Be intentional about how you spend your time. Begin to notice what brings you joy and follow it. Make time for the people and things you love. Practice being in the moment and experiencing fully all that is here. Use your breath to center yourself into the present moment over and over again. Let the joy in and imprint on your heart.
Ask for help when you need it. This was a hard one for me. I previously bought into the belief that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I thought I could do everything on my own. The truth is that we need each other. To ask for help is actually a sign of strength and it also gives people the opportunity to contribute to our well-being which can be a gift for them as well as to you.
I hope this holiday season is filled with presence, unconditional love, acceptance and growth. Every moment is a new moment to begin again!
This piece was originally published on Amanda Votto’s personal blog.