Feed Your Spirit | Self-care Series #3

Here we are, on the final day of the holiday self-care series. You can read part 1, which covers caring for your body. Part 2 is all about cultivating mindfulness as a form of self-love in a busy world.

Looking after your spiritual, or emotional, wellbeing may be the most nebulous form of self-care, but it can also be the most rewarding.

Our spirit is the seat of our emotions and character. In certain faiths, it is referred to as the soul. I like to think of my spirit as my overall state of being.

How do I feel? Am I happy? Tired? Excited? Is there anything going on with my body (a cold, for example) or my mind (obsessive thoughts over a work presentation) that could be influencing my overall mood? Everything is interconnected.

Photography by Kim Wheeler

We go through a lot of emotions throughout the holidays.

There’s the joy of having celebrations to look forward to. There’s the happiness we feel when we reconnect with family and friends that we haven’t seen in a while. There’s also the stress of realizing we haven’t budgeted enough money to buy Christmas presents this year (and perhaps will have to work overtime hours…) We may have felt anxious deciding whether we should invite a new significant other to the family Hanukkah party (Is it too early in the relationship? Will he freak out?). We may feel sad if we experienced a loss recently and grieve not being able to celebrate the New Year’s with our loved one who passed.

All of these feelings are normal. All of these feelings are valid.

There is no one “right” way to feel during the holiday season.

Some people want to cozy up on the couch and watch a marathon Hallmark Christmas specials.  Other people would rather eat their favorite treats and not watch a single holiday movie (nor buy a single gift).

You have to make choices during this time that feed your spirit and make you feel whole. This may sound supernatural or “woo woo,” but what I mean is this: in order to attain emotional wellbeing, you need to make healthy decisions that both promote positive emotions while also enabling you to manage negative emotions when they arrive.

Here are 7 things that you can do to explore emotional self-care and replenish your spirit. Some things on the list may work for you better than others, and that’s okay. Everyone is different. I’ve left off a couple of important things from this list, like meditating and seeing a licensed mental health professional. This is because I included them in the previous blog posts on physical and mental self-care, and I didn’t want to be repetitive.

As always, if you’re a subscriber, you got a worksheet in your inbox to help you plan a self-care routine for this week. If you’re not subscribed yet, you can sign up for blog updates. Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll receive access to it.

1. Do one thing a day that you love

What makes you feel alive? What makes you feel present in the moment?

For me, it’s being creative. I recently got into pressing flowers. It’s like saving a beautiful moment in time. I love it.  I pressed some of the rose petals that I was gifted on my birthday. I’ve been taping flowers and leaves I’ve preserved to the pages of a notebook my sister gifted me for my birthday, and I even framed a few pieces.

What is something that sparks a fire within you? Maybe it’s trying out a new recipe every night. (If that’s your thing, check out my friend Emily’s blog Allez Le Food.)

If it’s journaling or writing short stories, there are quite a few story idea generator books out there to get your creative juices flowing.

Play with your pet, with your kids, with your spouse! In a digital age, sometimes we forget that there are IRL games like cards, board games, Charades, drawing, telling stories, and Assassin. Put aside your digital gadgets and be present in the moment. Relish it.

2. Accept your emotions for what they are

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I start feeling upset about something in my life…I then start feeling upset that I’m upset. Feeling bad about feeling bad can become a terrible cycle if you’re not careful. Something I learned through research and experience is that you have to acknowledge and accept your emotions. When you accept them as they are, you can let them go.

Think of an unpleasant emotion as a flyer that wasn’t securely stapled to a telephone pole. The flyer rips free of the telephone pole, buoyed by a strong gust of wind, and starts floating in the air towards you and up over your head.

Sadness, anger, anxiety. They’re like that flyer floating in the wind. Notice the feeling, acknowledge it, and let it fly away in the wind. Don’t let the feeling define you, and do not claim it as your identity. Express your emotion in an appropriate way, and let it go.

In the book The Charisma Myth, author Olivia Fox Cabane writes that negative thoughts are like ugly graffiti on a wall. Just because you happen to walk by a wall with ugly graffiti doesn’t mean you are an ugly person.

3. Keep a piece of your favorite place in your room

I got this idea from a friend who I met when I was studying abroad in France. We were students at the Poitiers campus of Sciences Po Paris, studying Latin American affairs. She was from a different region of France, and she kept a little bottle of sand from her hometown beach in her dorm room. She would look at it to remember home and happy memories.

I loved this idea, and I use it myself today. I have sand from one of my favorite beaches, in Tobago, in a jar on the dresser in my room. Whenever I am on a great hike, I collect stones so I remember that day. I keep them arranged around a sweet-smelling candle by my mirror. I made a smudge stick from all the herbs in my garden while they were still vibrant and green, before the wintry weather dried them out.

You can do the same. Surround yourself with your favorite places. Take whatever tiny mementos you can get: press leaves from a tree you love before it sleeps for the winter, take a monogrammed paper napkin from your favorite café and use it as a bookmark, keep a program from a ballet you loved, buy yourself a quality touristy luggage tag or keychain after a vacation you enjoyed abroad. Capture your favorite experiences and surround yourself with those happy moments.

4. Let go of negative energy

This is a hard one, but very necessary. Toxic energy can be addictive. Just take a look on YouTube – some of the videos with the most views are rants or bashing videos.

Sometimes the things that poison us are camouflaged as medicine. For example, if there’s an influencer on Instagram whose motivational workout posts depress you instead of inspiring you – that’s negative energy in your life. And you may want to unfollow that person for awhile.

You can’t achieve a healthy emotional balance if you’re feeding your spirit garbage – i.e., reading articles, watching videos, or spending time with people who consistently bring your mood down.

To be spiritual is to…open your heart without judgment to who and how you actually are.

– Nancy Colier

Forget about how you “should” be or what you “should” do and focus on who you really are, and what truly brings you peace and happiness.

5. Spend quality time with the people you love

Did you know that a 20-second hug can decrease stress? A 10-second hug a day can boost your immune system! Being with the people you love is not only food for your soul, it’s great for your overall health too!

Go on that walk with your best friend and breathe in the fresh, outside air. Snuggle your nieces and nephews while they’re still babies. Kiss your significant other under the mistletoe.

I always see cute classes advertised around this time of year – make your own Christmas wreath, DIY holiday cards, and the like. These are all fun activities you can do with friends and family to connect on a meaningful level. Another thing you can do? Cross annoying holiday chores off your to-do list with a friend! The mall crowds don’t seem quite so crazy when you’re braving them with another person.

6. Create a self-care kit

I got this idea from the YouTuber MuchelleB. A self-care emergency kit is a space where you store resources to bring yourself joy when your mood is low. In her kit, Michelle includes a worksheet on self-compassion, activities, reminders of past wins, and ready-made shelf-stable food.

I have a self-care corner in my room with a candle, dried rose petals, stones from my travels, and other treasures. There are a few activities I like to do to bring my mood up: KenKen puzzles, drawing, mood boarding, rereading funny old emails from friends, journaling, and dancing.

7. Embrace holiday stress as the reason why you practice your new self-care habits

When you start a new habit, you need a strong “why” to motivate you to continue with your practice. The holidays can be challenging in all kinds of ways. When we return home for the holidays, we can revert back into old routines that make us regress back into our former selves. We can go from chic city businesswoman to sullen teenager hiding in our childhood room.

Christmas throwback with my sister & dad

I call this the Just Friends complex. Just Friends is a hilarious Christmas movie starring Ryan Reynolds. Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is a successful record executive and ladies’ man. But when he returns home unexpectedly for the holidays, he slowly reverts back into his formerly nerdy high school self. How does this happen?

According to Dr. Juli Fraga, although we may physically move out of our childhood homes, we never really leave our family dynamic behind. You can see this phenomenon as a challenge.

View the stress of the holidays as a playground for beginning a mindfulness practice.

Dr. Juli Fraga

In other words, refuse to let stress be an excuse why you can’t practice self-care. Let stress be the reason why you persevere and make time for yourself this holiday season.

At the end of the day, if you do one self-care activity a day, you’ve done a lot. Treating yourself with love and compassion is a powerful action. I read a quote once on the New York subway that really moved me. I can’t remember it verbatim, but the gist of it was this: “Loving yourself just as you are, in a world that constantly tells you you’re not enough, is a powerful act of defiance.”

Self-care will sometimes feel difficult to do because it is difficult work, particularly if you’ve been taught to put your needs last or that addressing your needs before anyone else’s is selfish.

Remember that you only have one life to live. You are alive (for now). There never was and there never will be another you. This is it. You are the only you the Universe will ever get. Understand how monumental that is.

Photography by Kim Wheeler

It can be hard to grasp because the days of our lives seem limitless, one blending into the next like watercolors in a Monet garden.

But we each have a finite amount of time here. Spend that time loving yourself just as you are – not beating yourself up.

All good things must come to an end, and this is the final blog in my holiday self-care series. I’ve shared a lot of ideas with you all, and I hope that you’ve found at least one that resonates with you that you can put into practice. I’m so happy with the positive feedback that some of you have shared with me about action steps you’ve implemented. Thank you.

I wish you all a warm, happy holiday season filled with love & light! I will be taking a short break from writing blog posts to enjoy time with family, but I plan to come back before the year ends with an article or two for you. If you have any requests of what you’d like to read in the upcoming year, please leave them in the comments below! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and gift yourself with self-care this time of year.


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