Guest blogger Louise, from MORE TO MUM, talks to us about how a little self- compassion can go a LONG way during the festive season.
Self-Compassion – Putting Mum First
The Christmas season is by far my favourite time of year.
I’ve always gleefully immersed myself in present shopping, wrapping, baking, card writing, decorating, entertaining and socialising.
But since becoming a mum, Christmas has become a little different.
It’s not that I enjoy it any less. In fact, it’s even more fun when you see it through the eyes of your children. It’s that the threat of becoming overloaded and overwhelmed is so much greater at Christmas time.
Do you feel that way too?
The relentless pressure of ‘mum-ness’
We never stop being mums. We never stop running our homes or managing the day to day things in our families. Not even at Christmas. So, the holiday season adds significantly to our already daunting to-do list and mental load.
In addition to all the Christmas related tasks that need to be done, there are many other things that can create extra pressure at this time of year, including:
- Holding yourself to unrealistically high standards
- Overcrowded shopping centres
- Financial stress
- Children who are tired and overwhelmed by all the social events and extra excitement
- Family conflict or drama
- Extended family members who disagree with your parenting style or the way you keep your house
- Other people’s expectations of the Christmas celebration you host
- Worrying that your children won’t behave well in front of friends and family
- Comparisons to others and to the ideals of Christmas
- Having less time to look after yourself.
All this can make Christmas way less joyful and way more overwhelming.
The unattainable ‘perfect’ Christmas
As mums, we want Christmas to be magical for our families.
But why do we feel like it’s our sole responsibility to make that magic happen?
Mumma, there is no perfect Christmas (even if you think you saw it on Instagram or a Netflix special), so you don’t need to strive for it.
Not everything will go to plan. Not everyone will be perfectly behaved and happy all the time. You may not be able to do everything you would like to do. You might forget things, or make mistakes. That’s just life. No one’s perfect and no one’s life is perfect.
What you can strive for, is a Christmas that is joyful and meaningful for you and your family.
Did you see that?
Joyful for you too!
Self-Compassion can mean finding joy
If you’re finding Christmas joyful, then you’re not beating yourself up for buying the wrong Barbie, or running out of time to mop the floor before your guests arrive. You’re not criticizing yourself for not having the best Christmas tree, and you’re not second-guessing your parenting skills because one of your distant relatives made a comment about how ‘spirited’ your son is.
There’s something important you can do to help you achieve that joyful Christmas.
It’s actually a skill that you can use at any time of year, whenever things don’t go as planned, don’t match up to your ideals, or when you’re feeling so stressed out you think you might just fall apart.
It’s practicing self-compassion.
What is the art of self-compassion?
You already know how to be compassionate, because you extend compassion to others all the time. You now just have to turn that compassion towards yourself.
Kristin Neff, leading expert on self-compassion, explains that self-compassion has 3 elements:
- Self-kindness– refraining from criticising yourself.
- Recognising your own humanity– we are all imperfect and experience pain.
- Mindfulness– being aware of our pain as it is, rather than ignoring or exaggerating it.
Self-compassion is focused on making sure you’re happy and healthy in the long run. So, it’s not about engaging in activities that make you feel better in the moment, but aren’t actually good for you, like drinking too much alcohol or making consistently unhealthy diet choices.
It’s not pity and or taking the easy way out. It can actually be quite hard. And it might even feel more painful at first because you’re accepting the painful feelings, rather than pushing them away.
How to practice self-compassion
Here’s a valuable self-compassion technique that takes only 1 minute, that you can use in stressful moments throughout the Christmas season.
It won’t solve the problems you’re facing, but it’ll help you feel calmer and be better equipped to handle the problems.
I originally learned this self-compassion technique from Kirstin’s Neff’s work and I’ve incorporated the language and deep breathing I use in stressful mum moments.
You can use this technique anywhere. Step away briefly, or just tune out your surroundings a little.
If my wording doesn’t feel natural to you, then change it to your own. Just make sure it still achieves the purpose of the step, as shown in the table.
Mumma, give yourself the gift of self-compassion and remember that your efforts to make your family happy, and the Christmas experience you create, are good enough.
You are good enough.
You are not alone in struggling or feeling stressed.
AND you can still have a magical, joyful and meaningful Christmas.
Louise East is a wife, mum of a toddler and step mum of 3 young adults. She is also the founder of More to Mum, a place where you can find heartfelt inspiration, advice and support with self-care and the practical things in life.
After a satisfying career coaching, mentoring, leading and teaching adults in the corporate world, she is now committed to helping mums of small children, believe that they are enough, feel confident in themselves and their choices, and look after themselves well, so they can give their best to their families.