Another great podcast from School for Mothers has gotten me thinking about why we often spend the holiday season fulfilling the wishes of those nearest and dearest to us while forgetting about ourselves. In past years I've made myself sick, quite literally, in trying to balance end of year school functions, running kids Christmas parties at my community centre and at work, managing end of year work deadlines and creating amazing birthday parties for my two winter borne children while also buying all the presents.
The year before last was my low point when I was so committed to others needs that despite having pneumonia I decided that my daughters at home birthday party with 10 friends was going to go ahead... afterwards I couldn't get out of bed for two days with a raging 40 degree temperature. It was a real wake-up call that December can no longer be my month of overwhelm.
As many of you know I've spent the last year learning how to put my oxygen mask on first in order to be a better parent, partner and colleague. One of the main tools I've used for that has been the truly transformational One of Many Be Fruitful course and follow up podcasts. The course gave me the permission to focus on me and I have subsequently found other great sources of advice and communities of like minded people. I'm now really clear on my work and home values and make every decision based on those values.
So here are my top two values that are helping me stay away from overwhelm this December by allowing me to focus some time back on me;
Compassion - Until late 2017 I genuinely thought that unless I was being busy I was of no value to anyone and that by creating busyness I was proving I was an important and valuable person. I have now replaced busyness with compassion. Whenever I have a choice to do something the first thing I ask myself is is it an action of compassion? By that I mean of act of compassion for myself first and foremost as part of self-care or self-fulfillment or would it have a similar impact for those in my closest circle, which currently only includes five people. All other actions that support compassion for others need to have a more selfish self interest as it will mean I will go into an energy deficit at this time of year.
How compassion has worked in practice for me this year is that both my kids birthday parties have been downsized because this year I've also had to add in organizing a birthday party for myself - the big 40. I was really clear with my kids that they could still have a birthday event but it would need to be simple and easy organize, involve no tidying up and involve me communicating with no more than five other parents. In the end we agreed a RIB ride on the Thames for the teenager and his two friends and trampolining for my tween with five friends. Easy Peasy.
Prioritize - Alongside busyness I also used to have a strong value around perfectionism. I think this was created by a relatively chaotic upbringing, significant caring responsibilities throughout my life and then becoming a single mum. If everything was ticked off my to do list and the house is immaculate then I was having good day, even if it meant I was only sleeping a few hours a night. I have more recently replaced perfectionism with prioritization. This means that when I am putting together a to do list several things happen; Firstly I try to be as selfish as possible and outsource as much of the list as I can. In doing that I am re-claiming selfish as a positive word alongside being brave as I mentioned in my blog - career advice to my younger self. Then I look again at what remains and ask myself a scary question - does any of this really need to be done? This for me has been the hardest challenge but as I've moved away from busyness to compassion I'm finding answering this question increasingly easier. Finally if the task needs to be done I then ask myself how well it needs to be completed? None of my tasks on my list involve life saving surgery so if they are done at less than 100% perfectionism no one is likely to die. By undertaking these three steps I've allowed myself to seek help from others, focus on my own self care and finally move away from perfection.
An example of how this has worked in practice is that the Christmas/Birthday list was made in November with an equal sharing of purchases by myself and my partner. If the presents on my partners list are not purchased in time or not wrapped by the required time that is not my responsibility. This has given me back both mental and physical space to allow myself to focus more on my own self-care.
So this year I'm wishing upon a start for an easier, less stressful, December and as wishing alone does not always work I've also started taking things into my own hand by being more self compassionate and prioritizing my needs, because no one is going to do it for me.
If you enjoyed this post please check out my other blog posts here. All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.