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Day 7: 10 Days of Self-Care (Holiday Countdown)

The Solstice Special

The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol ("sun") and sistere ("to stand still"). It is a term that describes how the seasonal path of the sun as it is seen from earth seems to pause at its northmost or southernmost limits (winter and summer solstice) before reversing direction. The solstice marks what is the shortest day of the year and the longest night and is a transition point between seasons; from the winter solstice the days begin getting longer, the nights shorter. Although it doesn't feel like it just yet, we are moving into a new season.

You may see solstice celebrations mentioned online today as people around the world celebrate together, virtually, in ritual or in song. Different cultures mark the day in different ways, but there is a seemingly universal agreement that times of transition are powerful in terms of both their energy and their significance.

So what does the solstice mean to you, today as an individual? This is a day and night of quiet energy that can be dedicated to looking within, to seeing and letting go of the past and to setting intentions for the coming move forwards.

Before reading onward, take a moment to revisit Day 6 of the countdown and move through the breathing exercise there to get yourself comfortable and settled. Stay with the exercise as long as it feels good for you and when you are ready, come back and pick up where you left off, right here at...

Day 7 Suggestions: Look Within and Let it Out

There are so many different ways that we can choose to observe the winter solstice that I could spend the full day trying to write them all down and still not have a complete list. My focus is really narrowed in on self-care through the holidays so as you read please remember that this is just one way to use this time. If you feel as though you would like to mark the solstice time in another way, it is also self-care to move in ways we feel called to, so go for it!

This has been a strange year. I think we can all agree on that, yes? Some of you may be thinking strange doesn't even begin to describe it. Some of you might be looking at 2020 and inventing new ways to curse. The stress if it and the challenge of it have been and continue to be HUGE yet during the holidays too many of us feel the need to force our lips up into a smile, to festoon the house and ourselves with forced merriment and force... the... harder... feelings... down. Well, guess what? Forcing them down isn't getting rid of them. What it's doing is just relocating the stress deeper into your body and setting it on a slow boil. Bringing how you feel out into the daylight, having a look at it and then letting it go is not only going to make you feel better, but also give you more space inside to fill up with all the good stuff (including Christmas cookies!).

Find a quiet, private space where you can sit quietly and be alone with your thoughts. Have a pen and paper with you. Remind yourself that this is an exercise in thought and emotion; that everything you are thinking and feeling is ok, it's just a thought or a feeling, not a hard fact or even truth. Without censoring yourself, start to write down everything about the holiday season this year that you don't like, that makes you upset. It could be that you can't go where you want or see who you normally see. Maybe it's that everything looks different and you aren't in control of the change. Keep it focused just on the holiday season and write it all out. You might just do point form with lines that start, "I think," or "I feel..." It doesn't have to be tidy - this is just for you. If it starts to feel overwhelming, pause, breathe and remind yourself that these are thoughts and feelings, you are safe and it's ok to let out any sadness you feel. This isn't adding anything new: this is just letting out what you were already carrying around.

When you are finished writing, take a moment and have a look at what you wrote. It's pretty amazing the amount of stuff we can carry every day right? How are you feeling right now, in this moment? If you are sad, give yourself permission to have a cry. It's ok. Tears aren't a sign of weakness. They are a sign of being human. If you are full of frustration get out for a brisk walk, move in a way that feels good. Maybe you are angry. Yell into a pillow, take a pillow and whack the couch or bed with it until you are out of breath. Scribble all over a giant piece of paper. Whatever you are feeling, find a safe and productive way to let it out. Call a family member or friend. Vent with a partner. Once you have allowed the feeling to move through you, come back to the post and continue.

By now you might feel a little drained. That's ok. Feeling is hard work! Take your list and crumple it up. It's time to toss it away. Find a comfortable seated position. It might be on the floor or in a chair with both feet planted on the floor. Wiggle a bit until your seat is comfortable

and bring your attention to your spine. Imagine there is a string that is attached to the crown of your head and imagine you are gently pulling upward on that string. With your spine lovely and long, roll your shoulders forwards a few times, then backwards a few times. Settle them down away from your ears. Rest one or both hands on your belly, right below the belly button. Inhale through your nose and send your breath deep into your belly, feeling your belly rise to your hands. Exhale through your mouth in a long sigh and feel your belly compress and fall. Your breath should be smooth: you don't need to forcefully pull air in or force it out. You don't need to pause or hold your breath at the top or the bottom. Just in and out. Breathe this way for three full rounds (a round is one full inhale and one full exhale). Resume your normal breathing rhythm.

If you feel comfortable doing so, allow your eyes to slowly close and move back into the deep breathing written above, breathing smoothly, sending air into the belly, feeling your belly rise to your hands. On the exhale imagine you are exhaling all the things you wrote on your list. Inhale, exhale and let go. Repeat for at least five rounds of breath then resume normal breathing for a few rounds, sitting quietly. Then repeat the exercise. Aim to go fully through step two at least three times but listen to your body. If you are feeling challenged by breathing deeply this way for five rounds, do less. If you feel that one repetition is all you can do today, you know you best.

Resume your normal rhythm of breathing and sit for a moment. Remind yourself that we cannot control the world around us. We can only control how we react to it. Right now things don't look the same. They don't feel the same. We don't have to pretend that we like it. We don't have to pretend that it isn't happening. We also don't have to get swallowed by it. There is a middle ground; when we make space for how we feel, when we let that feeling out and then let it go we respect and care for our true selves. Do something good for yourself. Treat yourself to a little extra self-care. Today you did some amazing stuff and tomorrow? Tomorrow the days start to get longer. The nights start to get shorter. Onward into brightness we go!

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