Tis’ the season to be gentle

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

I was talking with a friend about the holiday season and the stress she is under this month caring for her mother-in-law, working extra hours as a nurse, living with a teenager who is having her own stress-points, shopping for gifts, wrapping them, preparing the menu for the Christmas meal, and more.

In the midst of this chaotic scene, she began to feel unappreciated and overwhelmed, and she lashed out at her husband, who is also feeling the stress of the season.  This ‘perfect storm’ of emotions was not pretty.   She loves her husband, her teen daughter, and her elder mother-in-law, and she even loves the ‘spirit of Christmas’.   This ugly emotional moment made her pause.   As she was sharing her story, I said, “Well, you know, Tis’ the season…”   With tears in her eyes, she said, “Yes, Tis’ the season to be gentle.”

Taking a moment – even a brief pause for self-reflection within a storm of criticism, harsh words, and blaming is good for the soul.   The fact is, my friend was not being gentle with herself.   She is a beautiful, kind, caring, empathetic person.

If self-care doesn’t come naturally, and as an empathetic caregiver you still insist on putting everything else before your own needs, you probably go into an over-serving mode during the holidays. You may go out of your way to make sure everything is ready, and everyone has the “best holiday ever.” Sound familiar?

Here are some simple ways to take a moment to pause for self-reflection and be gentle with yourself so you can be the very best version of your true self.

morning routine
Your morning routine might only be 5 minutes long to start, but even that will help. Use the time to sit quietly with a cup of tea, meditate, journal, or include other activities that feed your body, mind, heart, and soul.

take a walk
Go outside and take a short walk. Bundle up if it’s cold and head out with the intention of noticing the magic. Don’t worry about burning calories or tracking steps, just enjoy yourself.

Call or spend time with the person that makes you laugh harder than anyone else. Then laugh until you cry.

find the blessings in your messes
For some reason, we really like to beat ourselves up at the end of the year for all that we’ve done and left undone. Sometimes it takes a big heart-wrenching mess to wake us up, to inspire change, and to finally release us from the guilt of getting there in the first place. When our imperfections are splattered all over the floor, it becomes clear that we had to go through it, to get to the lessons, and then the enormous blessings.

Don’t worry about being right. No one wins that fight. If you can’t apologize for what happened, try “I’m sorry we aren’t as close as we were. Can we start over?” or “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

It’s not too late. Your forgiveness will not only heal their hearts, it will heal yours. P.S. You don’t need an apology to forgive someone.

say goodbye to guilt
Usually guilt is not guilt at all, but instead, it’s sadness that you couldn’t do more to help, disappointment that you didn’t achieve something you set out to do, or anger because you said “yes” to something that deserved a “no”.

Frustrated? Breathe in. Breathe out. Worried? Breathe in. Breathe out. Overwhelmed? Breathe in. Breathe out. Confused? Breathe in. Breathe out. Exhausted? Breathe in. Breathe out. Start there and you can often avoid over-thinking and over-reacting.

let go
There are benefits to moving through life, work, and relationships with a lighter step, a lighter look, and a lighter heart. If we want to be light, we have to let go.

be love
Instead of working so hard to please people, do it all, or control the world – just be love today.

Take care of yourself over the holidays and always. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and everyone you love.  Yes, it tis’ the season to be gentle!

Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada