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How Not to Have a Mindful Holiday

I’d been giddily looking forward to going to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving since my mom booked the plane tickets in August. Whenever the boyfriend and I spend a weekend at my parents’ house, it feels like a vacation. We relax, eat awesome food, play tennis and swim if it’s warm outside, cuddle with my English Bulldog (photographed below), and spend quality time with my immediate family.

As you can imagine, though, it’s not exactly warm enough in Virginia this time of year to do the usual outdoor activities that we enjoy in the summer. Typically, when I go to my parents’ house for the holidays, I spend my free time reading, doing yoga videos, and catching up on shows that I don’t usually get to watch in the absence of paying for cable (Pretty Little Liars, specifically!). But this time, since the boyfriend accompanied me, I weirdly neglected to do these things. I think since this was the first holiday we spent together, in the presence of another’s family, I felt compelled to hang out in the living room where it was possible to “socialize” with everyone. This did not bode so well for my mental and emotional health.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with loved ones in a low-effort manner. But three straight days of watching live television with ACTUAL COMMERCIALS just about drove me nuts. Not once did I carve out the time to meditate, journal, blog, or even read alone in my room. I felt this odd sense of self-inflicted guilt at the idea of doing any of those things, but I ultimately paid for it when Sunday rolled around.

On Sunday morning, I woke up feeling extremely off. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what was wrong, but I knew that I was itching to do something for myself that would benefit both my physical and mental wellness. I had regularly been going to the gym during this holiday break, but I have slowly come to realize that pumping iron on its own is not enough to fill my cup each and every day¬†(more on that in this post).

We had all planned to go out for breakfast, but as I sipped bulletproof coffee in the hour or so before we were supposed to leave, I could feel myself becoming increasing more uncomfortable to the point where I decided I needed to go for a run instead. And let me emphasize this–I am NOT proud that I felt the need to skip a lovely breakfast with my family and boyfriend in order to ground myself. In my opinion, that’s the point of regularly checking in with yourself and carving out time on a daily basis to nurture your mental, emotional, and physical well-being–so that there’s no need to impulsively skip out on experiences in order to get yourself back on track. Then again, I want to caveat this statement by underscoring the fact that I felt NO shame in choosing a run over a family breakfast. That was the best decision I could make at the time, and the run felt absolutely amazing. It gave me the time and space to be alone with my own thoughts and feelings and to actually give them the recognition they deserved. I ultimately chose not to shame myself for making this choice, because I viewed it as a learning experience and a very telling testimonial to the importance of making time for me to hang out with myself.

And that’s exactly the moral of this story–that I absolutely need my me time in order to be the best, most energized version of myself on a daily basis. And that intentionally carving out that me time is critically important to ensuring that it actually happens. With this experience in mind, I’m slowly but surely doing a better job to do some daily journaling and meditating, and to communicate to the boyfriend whenever I just need a few hours uninterrupted to connect with myself, indulge some of my creative passions, or just chill out. As someone who has a track record of getting absorbed into the other person in the relationship, this is especially important for me to do. And he’s totally on board with it, which goes to show that the right partner is a supportive partner (among other things, of course).

Now I want to hear your thoughts–do you find yourself struggling to make time for yourself during holidays and family gatherings, or even in your daily life?

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