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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Holidays for the soul

Take time for vital self-care

Posted: 12/21/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0


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For many Canadians and Americans alike, one of the traditional folk songs during this festive season is the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Believe it or not, this song has English/French origins and was first published in 1780. It's known as a cumulative song, which means each verse builds on another. The song describes a gift to be given by "my true love" on each of the 12 days during the Christmas season.

The song is so catchy, once you hear the tune, it continues to ring in your ears and it's hard to stamp out.

For instance, I'll bet you can hum along with me as I quote, "12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping and nine ladies dancing." The song continues until the last verse and ends with "a partridge in a pear tree."

It doesn't matter what significance these traditional gifts had in years gone by because I've created my own interpretation I believe creates some meaning for today's world.


In my view, the traditional chant creates a wonderful sense of activity, of celebration and excitement that suggests the comfort and value of having people around you during this festive season.

On the other hand, the last verse, which includes the phrase, "a partridge in a pear tree" suggests, in my mind, each of us as individuals should consider ourselves as a "gift"; a gift to family, friends and colleagues. I'm not suggesting this means we indulge ourselves in exaggerated self-importance but instead, we need to recognize and accept the value we bring to the relationships around us. We are important. On the other hand, it suggests to me people need to look at life as a gift that has been given to ourselves.

So what does this mean overall? What does it mean for a festive season such as Christmas? To me, it means enjoying the activities around you is very important, but it is also very important that you engage in self-care in order to protect the life we live.

In other words, each individual needs to take personal responsibility to look after themselves; to find some quiet time among the noise and confusion created by the many activities around you. What can you do during this Christmas season to reach this goal? The following tips will help to create some ideas and alternatives that will enable you to find and benefit from some personal time.

Shut out the workplace -- It's very hard to do, but first and foremost, it's important you tune out and separate from your workplace as much as you can during the holiday season. Start by leaving your phone/email devices somewhere safe but in a place you won't be checking every five minutes. Set a specific time when you do check and return calls/emails but don't let it invade your personal time.

Visit memory lane -- Take out that old photo album and review your family pictures. Pay attention to the holiday events and focus on the smiling faces. Search the album for restful and peaceful places where you relaxed and enjoyed yourself. Go deep into memory lane and visit with your grandparents and other distant relatives. Think about how life today is so much easier than earlier times.

Delve into an old book -- Everyone has an old favourite book that is begging to be reread. Rereading gives you a new perspective, brings memories back and takes you into a fantasy world that removes you from today's hassles. It's relaxing, yet informative.

Read a new book -- There are plenty of titles and so the choice is yours. With Nelson Mandela's passing, perhaps pick up a biography. Surely you can learn from his sense of forgiveness and gratitude for life. Choose a sports hero or business leader whom you admire and/or find a book that is pure fantasy.

Watch a movie -- With movies available via technology these days, you don't have to stand in line and/or beg family members to accompany you. All you need is a quiet personal space to view it yourself. There are plenty of excellent and meaningful movies at this time of year -- find one that suits you and keeps you in a positive mood.

Visit a friend -- While you may have plenty of family around you and need some personal space, keep in mind there are many others, especially seniors, whose family and loved ones are no longer available to them. They would welcome your company and conversation. Reaching out and helping others is good for the soul and beneficial to everyone.

Reach out to those who are hurting -- If you think about it, you'll be able to identify someone who has suffered a personal tragedy at some point in the year. This might be death, accident or illness. These individuals are very self-absorbed right now and hesitate to get involved in festive activities; let's face it, they don't feel like it, but a personal visit is always welcome and comforting.

Get active -- Yes, it is very cold out, but there is still value in quiet personal time outdoors even if it means going for a short walk. If you are more ambitious, rent some skis, skates or snowshoes and find a nearby trail. Watch the world around you, appreciate the birds and animals. Identify all the different tracks in the snow. Walk during sunlight and enjoy the wonder of our winter.

Spoil yourself -- Pamper yourself, spoil yourself. Who says you have to get dressed immediately at the beginning of the day? Who says you can't sleep in or take an afternoon nap? Play your favourite music, especially the selections that help you to relax. Arrange a date with your loved one, just the two of you, and then go to a spa.

Look for relaxing activities -- Purchase yourself a puzzle, something that can attract your attention for a few hours per day and you can do independently. This can create a break from all the confusion, and at the same time, create a great sense of accomplishment when you are finished. A puzzle is something you can share or do alone, but either way, it is fun and relaxing.

The Twelve Days of Christmas chant is over 230 years old, which demonstrates traditions are long-lasting, and as we see, they are still being carried on today. So it's time to make a change and add personal self-care to be an important part of our holiday tradition. Merry Christmas!


Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 H1

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