Written by Caroline Liebman, MA, NCC, BC-DMT
As I look out the windows from my office at McCallum Place, I can see the golden yellow, burnt red, and bright orange leaves of a changing season. It is a glorious time here in the Midwest. I am immediately reminded that “change” is in the air. The temperature is becoming cooler, the light of each day grows shorter, and in just a few weeks Thanksgiving will arrive.
For myself, and I think for most of us, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the “Holiday Season.” This season, with all its beauty and meaning is usually experienced with a mixture of feelings ranging from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other.
We often feel great anticipation, love, joy, as well as anxiety and stress. Because we consciously or unconsciously bring a lifetime of traditions, memories and longings to these days, expectations, experiences and outcomes can be a real mix!
Planning for “Less”
The holiday season finds most of us more busy- more socially engaged with family and friends and more focused outwardly on activities. At the same time we maintain a full regalia of daily activities and responsibilities. With so much “more” on our daily agendas, one way to nurture oneself through this time is to allow and plan for some wholesome scheduled “less.”
I would like to share a few ideas about how to bring some practices into your holiday repertoire to help create more balance. Here are just a few ideas to navigate the holiday season and maintain a sense of personal integrity, coherence and wholesome well-being.
Self-Love and Kindness
Practice daily acts of mindful self-love and kindness. Allow yourself 15-20 minutes each day to sit and breathe mindfully. Find an uncluttered, comfortable space, light a candle and relax with yourself and breathe.
Dan Seigel, author of The Mindful Brain, reminds us that when the mind enters a state of being in which one’s here and now is sensed directly, and accepted and acknowledged with kindness and respect, one is in a relationship of self-attunement (paying attention to the inner experiences of one’s intrapersonal world.)
This mindful state promotes love and compassion for the self. Mindfulness practices engage the parasympathetic branch of our central nervous system which supports our body’s natural ability to relax, calm down and feel more coherent and peaceful.
Other daily mindfulness practices which can be nurturing and supportive for self-care include:
- Compassion meditations
- Mindful walking
- Simple mindful stretching
Daily meditative and prayer practices nurture the soul and spirit. It is vital and even timely to keep one’s spirit alive and well-supported, particularly during the holiday season.
Engaging in Healthy Activity
Remember to engage your body in healthy activity. Allow yourself to give your body a break from the “business” of the season.
- Take a weekly yoga class and/or a weekly pilates class
- Go to your gym and take a swim in the pool or sit in the spa
- Walk on the track or in your favorite outdoor park
- If you are a runner, make sure to get that favorite jog in during the week
Movement releases toxins, refreshes the body/mind and reduces tension. Consider getting a massage during the holidays. The benefits of massage will allow you to be more present in yourself, thus more present to others especially during this time of year when you presence is often the most important present you can offer.
Nurture your Creative Life
The holiday season naturally awakens each of us to our rich personal history. Take time to remember what is meaningful for you. What were the simple acts of the holiday time that you especially loved?
Allow yourself some time to bake that one special recipe, sing the songs that you especially enjoyed during the season, play a song or piece on your favorite musical instrument, or dance/ move to the rhythms that make you laugh and smile.
Sit by the fire and cuddle up with a favorite book and invite your partner or children to join. Orient to the simple, pleasurable acts of creativity and inspiration that are meaningful to you. These can become deeply rich moments that lift your spirit, warm your heart, and return a sense of wholesomeness to your day or evening.
Enjoy Your Relationships
And finally, remember to be with the ones you Love! With all of the threads of tradition that create the rich tapestry of the holiday season, the theme of love is the one that most prevails. The holidays are a time for sharing experiences with the ones nearest and dearest to your heart.
Allow yourself to be close to the ones in your life that you love and let them know your love for them. One of the most profound ways each of us can feel nurtured through these holiday times is to give and receive this most precious and sacred gift.
Caroline Liebman is a board certified dance/movement therapist and a nationally certified counselor who holds a Master of Arts in Education from Washington University in St. Louis. She completed her graduate work in Dance/Movement Therapy as well as a Professional Diploma in Dance and Movement Studies at the Laban Centre, London, England.
She trained in Authentic Movement at the Authentic Movement Institute in Berkeley California, and with Janet Adler, PhD. Currently, Caroline is training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, studying in the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute Program developed by Dr. Peter Levine, PhD.
Caroline is an adjunct faculty member in the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis, teaching in the Somatics Program. Caroline offers a blend of verbal and body-oriented therapies integrating Jungian thought, creative arts therapies, somatic experiencing, and spiritual practices to promote healing and well-being.
She has a background in working with issues of trauma, eating disorders, depression/loss, and anxiety. She also works with individuals seeking growth, wellness, and spiritual enrichment