Your North Star
Whilst the festivities are posited as a time to relax, to celebrate family, friendships, relationships and religious beliefs, they can never the less become stressful, and overwhelming.
And as the Christmas advertisements force their way into my living room, display themselves across the supermarket aisles and hang in pretty lights above the high street, I always find myself beginning to evaluate the year that has just passed, assessing whether I have "done enough" or made "enough progress" with my life.
It's not Christmas per se that triggers this thought pattern but more the fact that Christmas highlights that another year has almost passed and instructs me to consider whether I have achieved the goals I set out for myself at the start of the year.
Where did this year go?
How did I lose sight of what I wanted to achieve?
Why do I feel like time is passing me by?
Last Christmas, still sporting a very painful shoulder that was keeping me awake most nights, I made a very simple promise to myself that I would reintroduce regular exercise into my life. It was all I felt I could hope for in the coming year as the fatigue the injury had brought me, left me aimless and less than hopeful. However, I knew that I could make moves to stop kidding myself that the walk to and from school twice a day was sufficient to improve my health, repair my injury and enhance my fitness levels.
I had tried many things to repair the shoulder but almost all of them had left me in greater pain, even more despondent, with a feeling of 'stuckness' (I know it's not even a word but I have still coined it) that prevented me from setting my sights any higher than getting 'unstuck'.
Thankfully I got there; to a place I recognise as 'slightly less stuck'. I took some help from a physical therapist that really shifted the shoulder through a range of movement many other therapists had not managed to achieve despite gallant efforts! (I can refer you if you care to ask!)
I talked a few things through with a few people I trust and recognised the possibility that my 'stuckness' could be reflecting itself through my shoulder's failure to move, and I agreed to take action to shift both my thinking and my body to see if it would respond.
With some outside help (we can, none of us, treat ourselves) I have achieved regular physical movement with a little tweaking of the words "regular exercise" into a more measurable "fast walk for an hour at least 4 times a week". And, as a consequence I am feeling a lot less stuck emotionally. In fact, I have taken exciting moves to progress my learning and my practice into a field I had previously shied away from.
However, throughout the year there have been situations forced upon me that have created times where I felt lost, scattered, uncertain of who I was or what I was supposed to be doing and consequently, for a time I lost myself and my goals whilst looking after everyone else.
Now, whilst that caretaker role is an important one in my life, and I would go so far as to say it is primary, I know that I am only my best self in that role when I remind myself that I matter. I know that I only feel like I matter when I invest in and take care of myself too.
Christmas and the close of the year is a great time to evaluate your self care; to consider your goals and the direction in which your day to day actions seem to be taking you. It is a great time to consider your own needs and to ask others to help you in getting those needs met. After all, it is the time of giving and receiving. What better time to ask for help?
Whether we are surrounded by people we love and feeling quite content with our lot, or whether we are unfortunately all alone, Christmas is a time to take stock, sit back and consider the most important aspects of our lives. What goals do we have? Do we have any? Or are we simply muddling along reacting to the things that seem to 'happen' to us?
Sometimes important aspects are clearly missing from our day to day existence or sometimes the demands they place on us are pushed smack-bang into our field of vision so that we lose sight of our self and our own wellbeing. Taking some time to scan our current horizon and establish steps we can take to re-dress the balance is an essential step in working out a way forward.
Does your life have meaning and do your day to day actions have purpose? Do you feel content that you are living to your values and working towards something that will bring you a sense of achievement?
Do you know what your goals are? What would you like to achieve in your life and what can you aim to achieve in the next year to move you closer to your goal? Have you considered behaviours you may need to change, or skills you need to develop in order to achieve those goals?
So, this Christmas I encourage you; whenever you feast your eyes on a star, spare a thought for your own North Star. Scan your horizon and take some time to evaluate whether you are taking the right steps to move towards it. If not, consider gifting yourself a little time with someone you can trust to help you identify what you need to help you get to where you want to go....