Artists are often, though not always, introverts. We need plenty of time alone to recharge, reconnect with who we are, care for our hearts and souls.
Holidays, on the other hand, are often busy, social times, when we spend more time than usual in the company of people, not all of whom we would normally choose to spend time with. Or they can be lonely times when we feel left out or grieving.
Artists need time to create and to immerse in creativity, art, beauty, wonder, imagination. Shopping malls don’t supply this, and neither do many family gatherings. But there are opportunities for wonder, creativity and imagination inherent in the holidays.
So, here are a few quick tips to help you take care of yourself during the holidays.
- Give yourself time alone. Whether it’s a walk by yourself, an hour to read a novel or a whole day alone to do what you love, claim some time alone to recharge.It is perfectly fine to announce during a lull in an all-day family gathering that you are going for a walk alone and that you want to be alone. Let yourself be a model of good self-care and healthy boundaries, instead of falling into the accepted family patterns.
Maintain time for your healthy routines, even if it’s less time. It’s easy to abandon our routines during the holidays, but this can be quite costly to your sense of well-being. Whether it’s journaling, exercise, creative time or meditation that keeps you sane and feeling good, keep at least a modicum of these practices in almost every day or schedule times for them during the week. You may have to do fewer of them or for less time, but even ten minutes of meditation or journaling in the morning before you get caught up in the day is better than none.
- Keep contact with your creative spark. Read a few poems, see an inspiring film, make some gifts or decorations, or, if possible, preserve some of your “studio time,” your time for practicing your art form. You will feel a whole lot better giving yourself this gift of time, and others around you will learn from seeing you take care of yourself in this way.
Look for activities that allow for imagination, wonder, play, beauty. Choose those activities that feel good to you—whether that’s driving around looking at the Christmas light displays and singing carols in the car (Thanks to Molly Fisk for this one!) or reading A Christmas Carol out loud, whether that’s baking cookies or filling your house with candlelight, whether that’s bringing games to play to a party or making hand-made cards, preserve the sense of wonder, beauty, magic, the sacred that is available at the holidays.
One year when I was feeling very blue and alone at the holidays, a teacher of mine said, “I think of the holidays as a mini Age of Aquarius.” That was very helpful to me to put me in touch with the spirit of love, generosity and beauty available at this time, and to ask myself how I wanted to engage with that spirit. I wound up having a great holiday time.
- If you feel too alone at the holidays, reach out. Invite others to do things with you and don’t be shy about inviting yourself to gatherings at others’ houses. For many years I would ask friends if I could come over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or I’d invite friends to come over and bake cookies and play games. I got to choose where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. If you reach out, you will find there are others who are also needing company at this time. A friend of mine who had an “orphans” party on Christmas day found her house full of eager friends.
Keep in touch with how you are feeling. This is really paramount. Get in the habit of checking in with yourself during the day, getting quiet and asking yourself “How are you feeling?” and tuning in and really listening for the answer. And then ask “What do you need right now?”
Allow all feelings and needs to be welcomed. Just hearing and acknowledging your own feelings and needs is hugely helpful, whether or not you can meet the need at that moment. A five-minute bathroom break is enough to do this check-in during a gathering and can help you feel better.
- And finally, it’s ok to ask for what you need, to request there be no discussion of politics, or to say that you don’t want to watch the football game and are going in the other room to read, or that you are feeling lonely and need some company. The more you can practice being honest and communicative about your real feelings, needs and desires, the more space it makes for others to do the same. I believe this is a key to making a better world.
I am wishing you a beautiful, magical, wonder-filled holiday season. And, it’s also ok to be sad.