Keep Calm and Merry On!

Using mindfulness to embrace a new year.

As we near the turn of yet another year of turbulence and uncertainty, it’s only fair to honor the long way we have come to get us safely to the end of 2022. I would, however, be in absolute denial if I were to stay that it feels like only yesterday when the pandemic was declared. In fact, it feels like an eternity and yet, only three years have gone by. Using mindfulness can help us to lean into the new year with self-care.

In the middle of this eternal time warp, therapists are, more than ever, hammering home the importance of self-care. And for some the idea of self-care might feel, indeed, like a blow to our self-esteem, like another box left unchecked in our long list of to-dos. In fact, in my own experience as a counselor I come across reactions to the suggestion of self-care in which shame and guilt show up like uninvited guests to a holiday party. Add the holiday traditions to the mix and you have yourself another new-year-resolution nightmare! Can we make space to celebrate ourselves when there’s barely any room left to breathe?

Self-care in 2022, the great Catch-22

Failed wordplays aside, I think we can all agree that it would be lovely to have the time and the energy for long walks, meditating, taking up a hobby or going to the gym. And, although all these activities are beneficial, self-care can go beyond what we might find in a #blessed Instagram post. Self-care speaks to the acknowledgement that it’s OK to want to be OK. It’s OK to want more, it’s OK to press pause, it’s OK to say no, it’s OK to care for ourselves just like we care for our loved ones, and neighbors, and work colleagues, and pets, and random people we cross in the street, planet Earth, our clothes, reputation, career, etc.

It’s OK, but it’s not OK

If you have found yourself nodding to the last paragraph, you might have also noticed how unrealistic some of the statements are. Can we truly prioritize our wellbeing over work? Can we take a break from parenthood? Will our friends understand if we can’t make it to their party?

Maybe. And if it is the case, there might be no need for you to continue reading this post, but if butting heads with that all-or-nothing mindset self leaves you feeling even more depleted, perhaps, we can rephrase things.

What are the actions that make you unique in your relationships? Are you supportive of your friends? Are you forgiving with your loved ones? Do you like to surprise your coworkers with a coffee every now and then? Do you take in your neighbor’s mail? Do you still tell your partner they look good after a more-than-questionable haircut? Do you take a deep breath and support your child when they throw a fit?

If these questions speak to you then can we turn them around? Are you supportive of yourself? Do you forgive yourself for your shortcomings? Do you treat yourself every now and then? Do you look out for yourself? Do you still see your beauty even if the mirror begs to differ? Do you allow yourself to feel pain and disappointment without judging yourself for it? Can you practice self-care by becoming your own favorite friend, coworker, neighbor, or partner? –the “favorite child” might need its own blog post.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all big asks, and I don’t expect anyone to convert to self-care after one blog post but since I feel this might be getting a bit too condescending, I am going to put my money where my mouth is or, rather, myself where my care is – almost made this pun work– and set up a list of things that can help me jumpstart my self-care with a little bit of mindfulness.

12 Acts of Self Care

  • On the first act of self-care, I’m going to do this for me:
  • Name 1 emotion that I am feeling right now.
  • Notice 2 things I like about my outfit today.
  • Take 3 deep breaths.
  • Forgive myself for 4 things I messed up this year.
  • Notice 5 parts of my body and how they feel (tense or relaxed).
  • Take off 6 minutes to look out the window.
  • List 7 things I like about my life.
  • List 8 people I like in my life.
  • Notice 8 objects around me that I like.
  • Plan something fun to do in the next 10 days.
  • List 11 things I am grateful for.
  • List 12 things I did right this year (it can range between throwing out the trash to curing a
  • disease).
  • And a partridge in a pear tree.

One more time:

Name 1 emotion I am feeling after this exercise.
Hopefully you have noticed the shift, or maybe not. If that’s the case, do not despair, you took
the time to read this post to learn more about self-care and that, in itself, is self-care.

My growth gift:

One practice I love about Imago is the concept of growth gifts. Growth gifts are simple, straightforward words that we use to lift someone. They can serve to help people feel seen or to uncover something the person is, in fact, not able to notice about themselves. My growth gift to you is to celebrate your strength this year, to honor your courage for seeking new ways to learn about yourself and to encourage you to become your own favorite person.

As I prepare to welcome 2023, I notice the vertigo creep up, but I want to receive my fears with compassion, like I’m a friend confiding in myself. Taking it all in to keep calm, and merry on.