From our Counselor: Self Care

Happy holidays families!  


With demanding schedules, fundraisers, projects, family events, financial stretches and changed eating habits, sometimes the holidays can feel a little less than jolly. The expectations can be high, and things like Pinterest don’t help matters!  This is the time of year that we often can feel split between our outside and inside world - we can create a “mask” to meet the demanding expectations of others while having mixed emotions on the inside. Some of us struggle with grief or images of “how it should be”. We want our homes and ourselves to look the part for the holidays, and we often put the needs of others ahead of our own.  I often hear from people that they “lose track” of themselves in the midst of it all.


This is the time of year for self-care, and often the time when it’s last on our list.  The first step in self-care is to stop and pay attention to what is happening:  with our bodies, our thoughts, and our emotions. I often tell my clients to “Stop. Observe. Breathe.”  as often as they can to check in with themselves.  From there we then ask from a scale of 1-10 how intense the experience is, followed by the question, “now that I’m feeling this way, what do I need?  A bath?  Coffee with a friend?  A nap? One big nourishing deep breath? One of those 5-minute mindful vacations?” Sometimes simply naming the discomfort is enough to lighten our load. Awareness and mindfulness is key to any shift in mood or behavior. It takes practice to learn to listen to ourselves in this kind of way.  


Self-care needs boundaries and limits on demands and expectations. Self-care also needs self-reflection in order to check in and identify issues that need to be addressed.  And self-care needs action - even if the action is to stop for a moment and rest.


Here’s an example of how it’s worked for me-  I’d noticed over the past few weeks that I had slowly crept into  “micro-managing” my 5th grader in the morning, which would often end in a power struggle and total energy drain (self-reflection - I recognized that this power struggle was mine and it was draining my energy)!  I decided to experiment by focusing on myself one morning, simply giving him reminders of how much time is left to get ready (setting boundaries with time but limits on how involved I would be). And, lo and behold, he did it all on his own - shoes and socks and breakfast and homework included.  I still had energy and actually got to enjoy my morning coffee (action - I slowed down and enjoyed a moment of peace)! I was humbled. Not only had I empowered him, but I had empowered myself.


Children have their own set of challenges during the holidays.  They can create difficult expectations on themselves.  They are also like little sponges, often absorbing and reflecting what we parents are struggling with.  I remember a few years ago when I noticed my younger son would struggle at school on the days I felt the most stress, even if I wore a mask and squeezed a smile out on my face and thought he couldn’t see my stress.  Younger children can often express their feelings through their movement, art, and other behaviors because they do not have the words yet to express how they feel. The good news is that our children benefit from our wellness and we can model for them what self-care looks like!


In the classrooms, we’ll be looking at tools for self-care.  Young children can practice identifying their experience (including emotions) in their bodies through play, art and discussing books.  Older children can learn to identify their stressors and practice strategies for focusing on building a more positive relationship with the body and mind. I have a self-care wheel that they’ll get a chance to fill out to recognize their wellness strengths and challenges and we’ll play with mindfulness activities!


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and, most of all, I hope you all give yourselves the gift of mindful and compassionate self-care.     ~Robin    

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