I spent the morning shopping today. I don’t like shopping at any other time of year, but at Christmas time, I like to actually go in the stores and find gifts that I think my loved ones will be extremely happy with. I usually have a list of general ideas, but then I wait for the perfect thing to just jump out and say, “I’m perfect for so-and-so.”
This time of year we spend a lot of time and effort looking for that perfect gift for others, but sometimes we need to give ourselves some gifts too, especially if we have fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness. No, I’m not talking about the gifts we can find online or in stores. I’m talking about the kind of gifts we should be giving ourselves year-round, but get so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we sometimes forget. Gifts like:
Compassion for ourselves. We may have an unlimited amount of compassion for others but then rail against our bodies when they don’t cooperate with us. We need to learn to have the same compassion for ourselves that we do for others.
Permission to make self-care a priority. Often we put ourselves last on the list of people to take care of. If you have trouble feeling justified in putting your self-care first, just remember the lesson we learn from the airlines: During the preflight briefing we’re told that if the cabin depressurizes and the oxygen masks drop down, we’re to don our masks first and then put on anyone else’s. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.
A release from feelings of guilt. As I talked about in Let It Go, you can’t take responsibility for something you can’t control. I think we probably all have periods of feeling guilty for things we can’t do, but we have to release ourselves from that guilt in order to move forward.
Being kind to yourself. I’ve mentioned before that I’m very hard on myself. I wouldn’t be nearly as hard on anyone else. Sometimes we get so frustrated with our limitations that we forget that we are people who deserve the same kindness and respect that we give to others. We have to learn to extend the same grace to ourselves that we would to anyone else.
The gift of optimism. We may not always feel optimistic, particularly when we’re in the middle of a flare, but we can choose to be optimistic about our ability to do things that help us live well in spite of our circumstances. We can choose something called dynamic optimism, which I talked about in The ABCs of Remaining Optimistic to help us continue to move forward.
This time of year can be an extremely happy time, but it can also come with its own unique set of baggage, particularly if you’re not able to do all the things you’d like to be able to. Please take care and give yourself the gifts you need.
What gifts will you give yourself this year?