I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving holiday; and even though they might not admit it, I suspect that neither are many of my female patients. I find that many are more stressed from Turkey Day through the New Year. Studies have proven that women, often the predominant homemakers and caregivers, feel more holiday stress than men.
There truly are more stressors this time of the year. These may include: extended family members to entertain, shopping lists to fulfill, crowds to navigate at the local mall, feasts to prepare, gifts to purchase, etc.
And because we have more to do, we may believe that we have less time for ourselves. This is a mistake as it only triggers more stress! People often think they are too busy (taking care of everyone else) to exercise, meditate, eat healthy, pray, get a good night's sleep and so on. These excuses are harmful to your health causing many women to overeat, drink too much alcohol or get sick. Stress weakens the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses like colds and the flu.
I am convinced that more thanks of the self, is usually the answer to relieve stress not only during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.
Yet instead, it seems to be a time where many may feel that in order to express thanks, they must neglect their own needs.
It wasn't too long ago that I felt like I was always "too busy" for myself. I didn't know how to put myself first because I simply didn't have the time. I was a resident physician, working 80 hours a week, with a husband, toddler, and a newborn at home. My limited free time was spent studying, being a wife, and a mother. I had mastered attending to the needs of my patients, attending physicians, husband, and children; essentially everyone's except for my own.
Then something happened that forced me to acknowledge my own needs and prioritize my own mental, physical and spiritual well-being. What was that thing? I lost most of my excuses. I got a divorce. We had shared custody of our children. I no longer had a husband at home to feed or young children to coddle every evening. I was left alone with more free time than I was comfortable with; and this was the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me.
For many years, I was able to avoid getting to know and nurture the authentic me, because my head was always buried in books and/or family responsibilities. I had never taken the time to ask myself tough questions like:
Who am I?
What makes me most happy?
What makes me most sad?
How can I take better care of myself?
Now that I've mastered this doctor of medicine thing, what's next for me?
So this terrifying, horrible thing that happened became a thing of beauty. I realized that the time spent without my children was an essential opportunity to work on me. I learned that meeting my own needs, creating time for things I enjoyed, giving thanks to myself and learning patience with myself, not only relieved stress, yet also made me a better person in every aspect of my life. I learned to be the best nurturer of me.
The one thing you can do to have less stress during Thanksgiving is to remember to give thanks and time to yourself.
It is my oldest son who always reminds me of this. He's an exceptionally compassionate young man blessed with a gift to intuitively pick up on emotions of others. He always knows when I have too much stress. How do I know? Because he only asks me, "Mom, are you stressed?" when I am, in fact, actually feeling stressed!
This used to bother me. How did he know, his brother seemed oblivious? A mother's stress is not something a child should feel, I argued. But now, I'm happy he was blessed with this gift. When I'm so stressed that he senses it despite my best attempts to hide it, I'm reminded that I need to embrace more me time. I truly am the best me when I put myself first.
Healing Light, Lots of Laughter, & Limitless Love to You This Thanksgiving.