'Tis the season... to reflect, be grateful and self-care

Most people find December an insanely busy and stressful time of year. Preparing for Christmas, endless parties, shopping, work demands ahead of a short shut-down, visiting relatives, getting the home ready for guests, overspending with online shopping, children’s parties and school events, the list goes on and on.

That’s why now is exactly the time to take an hour or so out and reflect on all that you have achieved, overcome and how much you give to others. It’s a time to be grateful and a time to congratulate yourself on what you have done this year. Take a little time to look after yourself, because, if I guess right, you need it now more than ever. However you self-care, whether it is a walk by the sea, a soothing warm bath, a spa treatment, feet up with a good book; take a bit of time that is just for you.

The last 12 months for me have been some of the most challenging of my life and in this blog I’d like to share a little of that, and how it is shaping things for my Christmas and the New Year ahead. This time last year, I was in hospital recovering from major surgery. This meant I don’t remember much of last Christmas, and I was unable to work seriously until April 2018, quite an impact when you’re self employed. In the last two weeks my eldest daughter has also been in hospital for surgery and is now home and recovering well. I am eternally grateful to the National Health Service and the doctors and nurses who work in very trying circumstances.

In between those 2 health scares, I have had some great opportunities delivering emotional well-being training. I have been particularly privileged to work with the University of West England, UWE Cares Scheme, working with students who have overcome some of the greatest hurdles to make it to University. It was very humbling to hear some of the traumas these students have overcome and continue to live with. The feedback was a true reflection of the hard work the students put in to their own wellbeing, for example, “The course has been great for my understanding of my own issues and areas I need to work on” and ‘learning different techniques to resolve personal circumstances". I am very grateful to UWE Cares students, their feedback was also a welcome reminder that the work I do makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

There have also been some significant challenges, for example, I have made a costly mistake with a business relationship that didn’t work out as planned. The flip side of that is that I was helped by a good friend and I was put in contact with a business mentor who steered me in a better direction. On a personal level, I also acquired continual injuries which impacted my return to fitness post- surgery. This I find particularly challenging as maintaining health and fitness is one of my main coping strategies and going to the gym is a key self-care mechanism for me. There have been other problems too, one of my closest friends had a significant cycling accident and it seemed at one point he was close to losing his life. There have also been intensely impactful events concerning my close family that has led to feelings of overwhelm and being out of control. I am pleased to say, these are now resolved and I have found the advice on ‘keep it in the day’, to be of great help in right-sizing problems and stopping them from completing overwhelming me.

Keeping things in balance requires constant effort

So what I have learnt? And what can you learn from reflecting on your last year now?

I have learnt to cherish my own life and that of those closest to me, that there is never a bad time to tell people I love them. I have made more time for those who matter most, because life can change, literally in a heartbeat. I have learnt that I need to accept some situations that are beyond my control and that when I ride that wave, rather than fight it, life becomes more manageable. I have learnt the need to ask for help when it's needed; and I have learnt that come what may, life can simply get in the way of achieving goals we set ourselves, and that’s ok so long as we can learn and take positives where we can. I have certainly learnt that I need to be more realistic in the goals that I set and how I set out to achieve them, rather than ‘all or nothing’ I am learning to enjoy the progress I make on the journey. I have learnt a great deal this year that I truly believe has helped me to develop my own personal resilience and in so doing will enable me to help others.

So, as I look ahead to Christmas, it isn’t about how ‘perfect’ I can make Christmas (although I have already bought the turkey!); but more to treasure the time with my parents, my children and my friends.

Before we know it, New Year’s resolutions will be upon us, and when we reflect we can plan ahead with insight and wisdom; meaning our goals can be more realistic and achievable in the year ahead. For now though, enjoy the festive season and remember always to be kind to yourself.

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