This Self-Care and Self-Love sheet is created by Sara Ablinger (Big Body Love) after creating a workshop on Radical Self-Care and Self Love for the Holidays with Kim Loliya (The Pleasure Insitute, UK), held in Vienna on December 15.
It is based on our work around self-care and self-love, bodypositivity, intimacy and pleasure for women, minorities and/or marginalised, discriminated people.
The holiday season is a difficult time for many people where self-care and self-love can get lost in celebrations, the pressure to buy presents and fulfil family obligations. It might be also challenging time for those who are alone, don´t do any celebrations or miss community around them. This sheet might offer strategies, as well as inspirations and empowerment to love and care for ourselves in whatever way feels good for who we are.
Whatever goes on in your life: you always have your breath. You can always come back to your breath.
Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth (you can use sound too).
Focussing on your breath can help you get in touch with yourself, your body, your emotions.
Focussing on your breath helps you when you struggle, feel angry or sad, feel triggered. Breath is like a wave: it comes and goes, it carries emotions and sensations - when you breathe conciously no emotion will get stuck. The wave will fade out.
#2 CREATE A SELF-CARE EMERGENCY KIT
An emergency kit is very basic - it is about basic needs, it is about survival, it is about mental health, it is about connection.
Before you go into challenging situations - when you still feel in touch with yourself - think about all the self-care aspects in your life that are working well for you.
You can create a self-care emergency kit in two ways:
No.1 Write a self-care emergency list.
Write a list to remind yourself what is good for you for the time where you forget it because you feel upset or triggered.
For example: call a friend, brush teeth, take a shower, eat something nourishing, take a walk, …
No. 2 You can actually create a kit.
Get a bag or box and put in what might help you take care of yourself when you feel challenged.
For example: essential oils that are calming, a bag of your favourite tea, comforting book or music, bodylotion, a stuffed animal,...
#3 CLARITY & COMMUNICATION
What I find most useful and is cultivated over time is the knowledge of your boundaries.
When we are clear about our needs, desires and boundaries it is much easier to communicate them and take of them. During the holidays many unclear expectations and boundaries clash together, ending in frustrations, tensions and fights. So before you focus on communication and ways to have your needs met, you have to be clear about yourself, have some self-knowledge.
No. 1 Know your time frame: are you aware what amount of time you can handle your family, certain kinds of friends, being alone? Take a moment and think about it.
For example for me: I know I have a 4-day time frame for family visits. Knowing that, I am able to create more quality time and I am not that stressed out beforehand. Everytime I convince myself that a 5th day can´t hurt, I learn the lesson. Now I even make appointments for the 5th day, so I can´t find excuses to stay longer and regret it.
Also I have a time frame for solo-time, when I want to retreat and be on my own. 2 days without calls or interactions is fine, after that I need a walk, do some grocery shopping, call someone, have a guest over, hug someone.
No. 2 What are your expectations, needs, wishes, boundaries?
Often we have many images, negative expectations and projections before the holidays even are here. Think about it, feel into it: what is it that you want? What kind of quality would you like? What is important to you?
So before you actually interact with others: communicate in a calm and clear way what your expectations and wishes are. Find out what theirs are. Talk about a way that works for all of you.
If you cannot do that or if others don´t respect your wishes and boundaries: back to No.1. and No. 3.
No. 3 Fighting isolation and loneliness - finding ways to stay connected, heard, seen.
No matter how and where you spend the holidays - it can be within or without your community, friends, loved ones. It might be that you don´t feel seen as the person you are, that the ways you live your life are not respected or appreciated, that nobody listens to you.
Take a break.
Go to the bathroom (or outside).
Take a breath.
Move - take a walk, do yoga, go for a swim.
If you have loved ones: reach out. Even negotiate before the holidays getting in touch with each other at a certain time/place - during or after the holidays.
Listen to your favorite, empowering music.
No. 4 Say it clear.
Communicate clearly - especially during the holidays. People are often sensitive during the holidays - expect for the ways they treat and talk to each other. That´s why clear communication is key and tricky as well. Communicating short clear sentences from your perspective is the goal. Criticism, blame, defensive questions don´t work that well usually.
Be clear when you don´t want to answer questions.
Be clear when you don´t want to recieve advice or comments about your life.
Another possibilty is not responding and not reacting, if you feel saying “no” is too confrontative. Sometimes just being able to going through a situation is good enough. We do the best we can.
No. 5 Food and Body Image
There is a huge pressure around food (and sometimes alcohol) during the holidays. On one hand everyone is eating loads of food and on the other hand diet talk, new year´s resolutions and body shaming is part of the holiday celebrations.
Whether you are a fat person, have special dietary requirements or are an eating disorder survivor - eating in company, under pressure even can be a handful, triggering for some.
You can refuse to answer any questions and be clear that you don´t want to discuss your eating habits or your body.
Be clear beforehand how you want to handle food and booze. Don´t give your power away by not having the foods you need so your body feels okay (e.g. if you are on a special diet, vegan/vegetarian, lactose intolerant etc.) - bring your own stuff if you need to and do your own dinner.
Body image, body shaming and diet talk are unfortunately very latent table talk topics. If you spend your holidays with people that body shame you, please know: you are not alone.
Nobody has the right to comment on your body or how/what you eat.
After years of working on self-love I tell people that I forbid diet talk during dinner or even dinner preparations.
I am also not commenting if anybody asks me about my eating habits or in-/decrease o my weight.
Be prepared with body-positive support - either loved ones/friends or online ressources and blog posts.
No. 1 Don´t attend
You don´t have to attend any christmas celebrations. Your well-being and mental health is most important.
(In case of context of abuse/violence, co-dependency of any sort or limited ressources this may not be possible for everyone though.)
No. 2 Create, participate in alternative ways to spend the holidays.
You can create your own personal holiday celebration with loved ones/friends in a way that feels good to you.
Or create a get-together with like-minded people.
No.3 Share your time, ressources with less fortunate people.
You can do some social work, help out at a homeless shelter, cook, care for elderly people or others that are less fortunate than you.
No.4 Passing time to get by the holidays
Doing anything to pass the time to get by the holidays is okay too. Working, watching movies, doing ordinary things, anything is valid to pass the time.
Celebrations of any kind are all about intentions. If you set another intention, you can create a very different experience.
No. 5 Change the location - take a trip
Can be connected to No.1 but can also be done with loved ones to escape a certain holiday dynamic. Taking a trip is not something everyone can afford, especially with holiday prices. If you can afford it a change of location can be wonderful - you are outside of your regular holiday structures and create a whole new, individual experience.