Halloween is over, and my two favorite holidays are approaching: Thanksgiving and Christmas! But before we get to the food, presents, and fun, there is still a lot of work to do. This time of year can produce a lot of good times; but at the same time, this time of year can be anxiety-inducing and stressful. As we near the holiday season it is important to think about self care.
Thanksgiving reminds us to “give thanks.” We should probably do this throughout the year, but I do like the idea of dedicating an entire week to this mindful act. Part of self-care involves letting go of our own struggles and realizing that, in the grand scheme of things, our problems typically aren’t as big as they seem to us.
Dr. Nicole Fitzpatrick, the Director of a counseling center here in Austin, spoke to our teachers at school today about self-care. Part of her message involved our brain functioning, specifically how high-anxiety situations produce cortisol, which in turn puts us into “fight or flight.” This process is controlled by the amygdala, which is a tiny portion of our brain. As Dr. Fitzpatrick stated, we allow something the size of an almond to make us feel this bad! That really put it into perspective.
Dr. Fitzpatrick noted the importance of shifting those thoughts from the amygdala, which is located near the back of the head, to the front of our brains, which controls our rational thoughts. The best way to do that is move from the “I have to” mindset to the “I get to mindset.”
Personally I’ve been struggling with raising our two-year-old while he’s going through typical toddler behavior. Every night seems like a fight between him and us to get him to go to sleep in his toddler bed. My wife and I feel beat down every night to the point where we feel like giving up. However, when things are feeling really bad, I try to remind myself that “This too shall pass.” Raising a toddler is tough, but it also is such a brief period of time. I know the day will come when I would pay anything to have these years back. So rather than tell myself, “I have to put him to bed,” I’m trying to shift my mindset to, “I get to put him to bed.” Sure, he will probably still scream and cry, but changing this mentality does help me get through. I truly am thankful for him and all his nonsense; it makes me appreciate his sweet, funny side that much more.
When you are struggling with your own emotions, try to take a deep breath and remind yourself of all that you have to be thankful for. No matter what you are going through, there is good in your life that will help keep it all in perspective.
Christmas is the holiday of giving. And for me, giving Christmas presents is infinitely more satisfying than receiving presents. In order to take care of ourselves, we must also take care of others. This doesn’t mean we have to neglect our own needs for the sake of others; rather, we use giving as a way to fill ourselves up.
I have been fortunate to travel to Nicaragua as part of our school’s mission trip the past two years. The sole purpose of the trip is to pour into impoverished communities throughout Nicaragua. We work long hours in hot conditions, all with the purpose of giving to people who are in need. Although the week is exhausting, once we get back to Austin I feel an overwhelming sense of self-worth and genuine fulfillment. It’s no coincidence that the brief period I come home is the most satisfying of the year. Giving to others is a rewarding experience that will leave you happier, less stressed about your own situation, and ready to give more. Christmas is no different. Giving back to your loved ones will provide the ultimate Christmas present for yourself.
This holiday season is the perfect time to reflect and make a commitment to self-care. By focusing on saying thanks and giving to others, you can discern what is important in your life from the things that bring unnecessary stress and anxiety. Sure, the holidays will always be a stressful time for most. But focusing on self-care, you can have a happy and healthy break.