Physical Self-Care During Busy Holidays
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, as are the well-meaning messages and reminders to ‘give thanks’ for all that we may have: our loved ones, good health, a job, a roof over our heads, food on the table.
These messages about outward gratitude are mostly good, at least the ones that aren’t masked manipulation convincing us to buy more stuff. Outward gratitude is both necessary and beneficial to balanced living (who doesn’t own a copy of The Five Minute Journal?)
The problem is, most of us drain our wells, so to speak, before saving some of that gratitude and turning it in. This is especially true during the holidays. We show up and we serve. So much so that we forget to take care of ourselves. And we forget to take care of our bodies, let alone thank them for all that they do. Sometimes we even inadvertently abuse them, all in the pursuit of outward gratitude and serving others.
Can we change this? Can we choose to equally celebrate others and care for our bodies this holiday season? We think so.
Despite living in a culture where disembodiment is deemed natural, we believe operating as grounded, physical, and present beings is possible. While body-awareness and self-love are not easy, at least not at first, here are three practices we’ve found to be transformative that we’re (quite literally) embracing this holiday season.
1. Practice Body-Awareness
The first practice is to simply become aware. Start by being honest with yourself about how you have been moving through the world. Do you feel grounded and present throughout the day? Be kind and gracious with yourself here as you ask hard questions. Healthy awareness is observant and non-critical. Remember, we live in a society where forgoing physical needs in the interest of success, or in the case of the holidays, serving and celebrating others, is the norm. Don’t judge yourself if you come to find you’ve been ignoring your body and its needs. Objective awareness is the first and most essential step towards change.
To help with this practice, we recommend picking up a copy of one of these books on mindfulness and meditation for beginners. The holidays are an excellent time to start a morning meditation practice, whether it be at the yoga studio or in the corner of your bedroom. Take a few minutes for yourself each day to become aware of your physicality. Check in with yourself. Focus on each area of your body and ask it questions.
How is it doing today? Relaxed? Tense? Is it feeling bloated, or hungry? Ask your body to make its needs known, and then do your best to tune in and honor those needs. Remember, non-judgmental observation and awareness is the first step. It is much more difficult to forget about your body once you’ve begun to communicate with it.
2. Dispel Toxic Food Messages
The problem of toxic food messages during the holidays isn’t new. We’ve all ridden the ‘indulge now, purge in January’ ride before. Whether it be messages from your local gym or from a natural wellness brand (yes, we’re calling out the detox trend too), the message is one and the same: let loose now and diet later.
On the flip side, there are also messages telling us to restrain. These are the voices telling us only to eat organic and natural foods. While these messages aren’t inherently harmful, and we do advocate for the health and environmental benefits of these kinds of choices, sustainability is a marathon. Yes, we strive for a world where food packaged in plastic and GMOs no longer exists, but we aren’t there yet. We take steps and do our part to fight for our health and the planet, but we are not perfect people. And it’s dangerous to think otherwise.
Whether we’re eating all the pie or punishing ourselves for giving in to canned pumpkin, we’re abusing our bodies. We're ignoring its wants and needs. We’re pushing through whatever emotions we might be feeling and washing them down with yet another drink. This has become normal. This is holiday eating.
The good news is that through awareness we can dispel these toxic messages. Through mindfulness, we can learn to listen to our bodies and eat according to their needs. We can enjoy a slice of Grandma’s famous pie without the guilt, and we can also brew a cup of tea instead of pouring another drink. We can stay up late to play games with family, and we can also decline the party invitation. We learn to lean in, to give our bodies agency and voice.
Dispel the toxic messages, from the world and your inner critic. Listen to your body and be kind to it.
3. Give Your Body A Gift This Year
A final practice for embodiment and self-gratitude this season is this: give your body a gift. We know this all might sound weird—talking about our bodies in third-person and caring for them as separate entities can seem strange. And, if you’re not there yet or if this feels uncomfortable, that is more than okay (remember, non-judgmental observation). If it feels better, invite your family and friends to give you these kinds of cozy, self-care gifts this holiday season. Check out our guide for some suggestions.
If you do feel comfortable though, gift your body something special over the holidays. Whether it be a spa day, a dance class, apothecary products, or a fuzzy blanket, indulge in a gift that forces you to be in your skin. You may even consider wrapping the gift and addressing it to “my body.” Keep it in sight over the coming weeks and use it as a reminder to acknowledge your body and give it thanks. Whatever holidays you celebrate during this time of year, choose a day significant and meaningful to you to unwrap your body gift. You may want to do this alone or use it as a way to talk with your loved ones about the importance of embodiment and self-care.
Likewise, the gift doesn’t have to cost money. Self-care coupons for sleeping in, a night spent cooking your favorite meal, and evening baths are equally beautiful and affordable ways to consciously give your body the love it deserves.
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.