Self Care & Compassion at Christmas Time
As part of our ‘Say it with Wellness’ campaign, we are looking at the importance of self care and compassion at Christmas time. While often it is a joyous time of year, the festive period can also bring with it intense feelings of pressure and expectation. We are left feeling stressed and disconnected from ourselves, with so much running through our mind it’s often hard to focus or function. When our stress levels remain constantly at this high level we subconsciously hone in on doing, rather than being. We are running around ticking things off an overwhelming to-do list, grabbing a quick bite in between the never ending tasks and events and washing it all down with copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, or both! It’s a never ending stress cycle and while our body can cope with that in the short term, in the long run, it can have a detrimental impact on our wellbeing. Learning to have a compassionate and kind relationship with ourselves and our body is where true wellness stems from. Without this, it’s unlikely that we will take the time to mind ourselves or as we like to say at GROUND ‘tóg go bog é’.
When we are stressed our body goes into what’s known as the Fight, Flight, Freeze state as it prepares to cope with the stressor at hand. While stress itself is not bad for us, remaining stuck in a never ending stress cycle is. It is imperative for our wellbeing that we learn how to move into the opposite state of rest & digest. This is the optimal state for our body to be in as it prioritises blood flow to our internal organs and slows down our heart rate. This is the state in which our body heals and repairs. So how do we let our bodies know that we’re no longer threatened or stressed so that we move into this rest & digest state? These are just some of the ways that we can show ourselves care & compassion.
Bringing an awareness to the words we use when we talk to ourselves is of vital importance. Many of us tend to naturally speak from a place of negativity but can we learn to speak to ourselves in a caring and gentle way? Yes. This is a skill we can learn, one with an array of important health benefits. Research has shown that self-compassion exercises can reduce feelings of distress, bringing the body into a more relaxed state in which the heart rate slows down, blood pressure drops, and stress hormones decrease. While this is an important starting point, words alone however are not enough to move our body fully into the rest & digest state, we must pair these words with actions. We must speak the body’s language.
Breathing deeply is an effective way to move our body into the rest & digest state. Practise it now, as you’re reading these words. Take an inhale through your nose, fill your belly with air, hold it here for a moment. Exhale slowly through your mouth, breathing out any worry or tension you may be holding. Repeat this a few more times and notice any differences you may feel in your body. This is an easy way to reset our system at any given moment. We take in more oxygen, our heart rate slows, and our mind starts to slow down thus engaging the rest & digest state.
Above all else, remember this; kindness and compassion for ourselves is not the same as self-indulgent behaviours. Being kind and compassionate to ourselves involves turning inwards and acknowledging how we feel in our mind and in our body. Using caring, loving words when we talk to ourselves and taking mindful, deeper breaths are just some of the important ways that we can reconnect mind & body and in doing so 'say it with wellness' to ourselves.