Interview with Grāinne: Selfcare over the holidays
We know from experience that around the holidays can be one of the hardest times to focus on keeping yourself well. There is the flurry of finishing off work that you’re desperate to not wake up to when you come back in January, the intensity and alienation of a holiday with roots in religion and capitalism, and the pressures of knowing everyone around you deeply enough to buy the perfect product that represents your relationship and their entire personality. There’s the pressure from family to spend time with them, and the extra serving of grief which comes when you don’t have family nearby or at all to spend your time with. It can be a time to remember all that’s been lost, and if you find yourself amongst glittering baubles and twinkling fairy lights, listening to jolly tunes about magical creatures and the joy you’re supposed to be feeling, and find yourself only feeling grief, or sadness, or boredom, we’d like to let you know – you’re not alone.
We sat down with Grainne – our Irish, far from home at Christmas, Head of Operations & Service Delivery and asked her what things she will try to do to keep herself well over the holidays.
Keep the routine
I’m aiming to stick with the things in my life that I know keep me well. I know that walks in nature, time alone, early nights, and eating well keep me feeling mentally and physically well, and for some reason, when it comes to Christmas, that all gets thrown out the window like aunt Gladys’s chicken bones. What is it about the mid to end of December that makes me think I can digest gluten or be energetic after 5 hours sleep, or put up with another human for 12 days straight without taking a moment alone? This year, I am committing to keeping a list in my back pocket and in my mind of the things I know that keep me well.
Being around family (biological or otherwise) can sometimes be the hardest time to show up and be present, especially for long stretches at a time. This year, I’m going to do my best to remain present – that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll be more accepting of what’s going around me, or that I’ll put up with more from other people – it means that I’ll notice what’s going on for me. I’ll notice when unmet needs come up for me, and I’ll aim to meet them before they build up and volcano out of me after being ignored.
Something which I hope will keep me in check this year and help me with the noticing I mentioned above is to keep a journal or at least a mental journal. To set moments in each day to stop, take stock of how I’m going, and go on from there. I see a therapist weekly and we’re having a 5-week break over the holidays. I want to keep a note of the things I can bring to him in the new year, how I’m reacting to things around me. Come January, I can celebrate my wins, unpack my not-so-wins, and get an overview of how the holidays were for me.
Finding ways to be close from afar
One benefit of this new and strange world is how accessible video calling and other online connecting can feel. Last week, I posted a package of Christmas gifts to my sister and I burst out crying when I left the Post Office. I hadn’t realised it, but the box of gifts for her that had been sitting in the corner of my room, waiting to be posted was one of the closest connections she and I will have this Christmas. The moment I had that thought, I replaced it with a different thought – that I will find a way to connect with her in a meaningful way on Christmas day, even if it’s through a computer screen.
Place of choice this holiday season?
This year I’ll be (hopefully!) finding lots of quiet places to go. Hiking the Southern Crossing in the Tararua Ranges, swimming along the Kāpiti Coast and heading for a trip to the South Island to see the stars at Lake Tekapo. I’ve tried to look for the good in having a Christmas without the option of being around family – one of the benefits I’ve realised is that for this year, I really can be master of my destiny, I can let go of any usual obligations I feel over the Christmas period and just do whatever the hell I want – it’s quite freeing!
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to some deep stillness after what has been a chaotic year. I wonder how much my body is pushing to limp over the finish line of this marathon of a year. I’m excited to kick back, chug down a powerade, wipe my sweaty brow and look back on what a kicker of a year it’s been.