The running up to Christmas is often an exhausting time, even more so for women living with a long-term condition resulting in chronic fatigue, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS), Long Covid, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Fibromyalgia.
It’s an extra pressure because as women we’re conditioned to keep the peace and make sure everything goes right. We’re often people pleasers and it’s hard to protect our boundaries. Satisfying demands and pleasing everyone adds a tonne of stress. It requires extra energy on all levels, physical, mental and emotional. Energy that is simply not there.
So what can you do to healthily and peacefully prepare for the holiday season?
1- Plan and prioritise
I give this advice to all my clients with chronic fatigue and pain. It’s about being realistic and trying to prepare as much as possible in advance. It’s also very important to allow for flexibility in the planning in case there is one day when you don’t feel as good as you’d expected.
If you can put a support system in place as well, please do. Remember that asking for help is not a weakness.
2- Take many short breaks during the day
I cannot stress enough how important regular short breaks are to manage energy levels and
balance emotions. Practiced often they can be life-changing. I always say that sophrology can be practiced anywhere and anytime, but with the surplus of stimulations around Christmas, I’d really recommend you find a calm and quiet space to do this. Especially if you suffer with hypersensitivity and have been exposed to packed streets, long queues, extra noise, bright lights, etc…
Here are three short exercises I recommend:
- Breathing exercise – take a moment to welcome your breathing just as it is. Feel the air flowing in through your nose and coming out. Pay attention to the pace of your breathing, where it’s placed in the body without judgment. After observing your breath for a couple of minutes, extend your out-breath a little, just what’s comfortable. After a couple of minutes exhaling long and slow, go back to your natural breathing and listen to how you feel.
- Release unnecessary tensions – close your eyes, sense how your body is placed. Do you notice some tensions that you could release? For instance, is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders up? Your hands tight? Let go of as many tensions as you can. It’s ok if they don’t all go away.
- Discard unpleasant emotions – before I present this exercise, I want to say that no emotion is good or bad. They all serve a purpose and shouldn’t be ignored. However, sometimes, we experience unpleasant emotions that we’d like to let go off. First, allow yourself to feel the emotion, let it emerge and be with it. Then take a cushion and imagine transferring your emotion onto the cushion. Breathe out and throw the cushion away. You can repeat the exercise a few times and notice how your feel after that.
3- Set your boundaries and protect your space
Do you find it hard to say no? Are you the ultimate people pleaser?
My motto is self-care is not selfish. If you look well after yourself, by taking time out and doing what is right for you, chances are you’ll feel better and happier in yourself. When you feel happier and better, it benefits everything and everyone around you. You actually have more energy to do what you need to do and to look after your loved ones.
I’d like to suggest a couple of practical exercises that will help you protect your space in the run up to Christmas.
- Yes and No exercise – sitting or standing, gently let your head move from side to side, listening to how you feel and taking the movement just as far as is comfortable for you. Once you’re happy with the movement, imagine saying no to anything you don’t want. Then let your head come back to centre. Now let your head nod up and down, again taking the movement as far as you need, without over-doing it. Imagine saying yes to yourself and the things your want.
- Rotating arms exercise – standing, feet apart, let the upper part of your body rotate, keeping the arms loose. Allow the movement to expand as wide and as quick as you want. Imagine creating your space around you as you do the movement.
- Protective filter – visualise a filter surrounding you, perhaps as a magic bubble or a force field, a safe layer that doesn’t let in the things you don’t want to let in. Imagine pressures, expectations, negative comments and energy bounce off that protective shield. Try this visualisation on your own first. Once you’re familiar with your filter, use it in any situation where you need to protect your space and boundaries.
There are other ways you could work on setting boundaries and protecting your space. I’ve asked a fellow practitioner, Shabnam Rakhiba from Thorns and Roses Coaching her advice. She also helps women living with chronic pain, being a chronic pain warrior herself. She wrote an article where she asks 10 questions that will help you reflect on your perceptions, behaviours and beliefs around boundaries to make practical changes in this run up to Christmas.
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Pictures copyright – blog image and list pixabay / exercises pictures -Audrey Zannese