For me, December always comes with a certain amount of dread. I know the month will be filled with my anxiety in overdrive, and there will be too much to do, with too little time to do it all. I know that when I go out to run errands, people will be cranky, rude and have little concept of personal space. I know all this, yet I resist the urge to run away and hide in the tropics for those four weeks. Why? Well, I don’t have much choice (the work thing, responsibilities, and all that).
What’s a person to do? Well, if you are a witch, you remember what possibilities are within your realm. This year, I decided to plan ahead a bit, and am doing the work, so I can thrive instead of just existing in misery. Below are a few things that have worked for me, so that if you are feeling the same, hopefully some of these ideas may help you as you navigate the days towards Yule.
Lower expectations: This is first and foremost. Lower your expectations to zero, and realize things can only go up from there. I didn’t go into my normal planning mode. I let events unfold, and I manage my expectations of what I can reasonably do at any given time. It has helped quite a bit, as I treat each activity or event as new territory. Do I sometimes get disappointed or aggravated? Sure. Then I go right back to lowering those expectations again.
Caring for others: My local credit union had a blood drive, and it had been a while since I donated, so I signed up. It felt good to be doing something for others, and took me out of my own monkey brain for a while. I’ve also collected hand and feet warmers, as well as non-perishable foods to donate. Same result. Thinking of others helps me keep my focus outward. I also check in on my introvert friends, and keep in touch more than usual, so that none of us feel alone at this extroverted time of year.
Self-care: Sure, it involves baths and hot chocolate. It also involves protecting my energy, so that I say no to events and gatherings when I am not feeling 100% ready to attend. Instead, I do activities that I enjoy, such as seeing winter light displays, attending funny plays (laughter is the best remedy), and having a stack of books ready to read when I need to disappear into the different worlds in those pages.
Nature: A local foraging friend taught me about the medieval uses of rosemary. Bck in the Middle Ages, it was believed that those who smelled rosemary on Christmas Eve would have a year of health and happiness. I am not one for Yule or Christmas trees, so I purchased a rosemary plant, and its smell has made me feel better on many occasions. I will also plant it in my garden in the Spring, and the thought of that makes me happy. I foraged some nature items for decorations as well, and its simplicity is soothing.
Apothecary: I am fortunate to know many delightful herbalists, who have beautiful and helpful products. One supplied an herbal friend to add to soups, and other has a soothing essence for harried days, which I have taken faithfully. It dues help. At work, I diffuse lavender and peppermint essential oils to help create a soothing atmosphere. I light natural scented candles, and the scent helps with even the most busy of days.Kitchen witchery: This time of year is a Soup Bacchanalia. Soups are easy and healthful to make, and I keep my meals to simple preparations whenever possible. I know this is the time of year people enjoy indulging, but I have tried to stay mindful, yet not depriving myself. My goal is to feel nourished, and with that mindset, meals have become more than sustenance. I also employ ritual with everything from stirring my morning coffee, to making simple food gifts, to creating offerings as I work at my altar.
Senses: Whenever possible, I try to engage my senses in this season of revelry. Seeing the beautiful lights and stars, feeling fuzzy, warm sweaters, tasting the richness of beverages, hearing the sounds of bells, to smelling the whiff of pines when I am out in the forest.
Community: I have participated in an online candle ritual that has taken place in the weeks leading up to the Winter Solstice. We have all shared photos of our altar, with greenery, candles and decorations. It has been a very meaningful experience. I take part in the Winter Solstice ritual with our local goddess temple. To be among community is a choice I make, and I do choose carefully. My first obligation is to myself, and when participating, I embrace being present. Whether online, or in person, my community helps me feel connected, at times when I need it.
Altar: I spend more time at my altar, especially in the mornings. It helps set the tone of the day, and it is a soothing way to begin. I light candles, sometimes incense, work with my deities, plan out my full moon and new moon rituals, puzzle out some other workings I am doing for friends, or just sit in quiet contemplation. Mine is freshly decorated for the season, and it helps me get through my days when it is part of my daily routine.
The power of three: When, despite my best efforts, I feel overwhelmed, I stop to ground and center, and focus on the three most important things at the moment. The list is ever-changing, but it helps to keep me focus and grounded. It can be something to get me through that day (work, bath, hot chocolate), or it can be the people I love in my life. The three becomes my mantra to get through whatever panic and overwhelm that sets in.
Breathing: Yes, we all forget to do it. I set a reminder on my phone to check in hourly to make sure I am breathing deeply. Not every day, but on those days when there are lots of meetings and things to do. I also meditate at least twice a day, and focus on my breathing at those times as well.
All these things are a work in progress, and I may add or discard, as time goes on. I have noticed a difference in my outlook and coping abilities, so it is my hope that some of these suggestions help you as well. However you celebrate, may your Yule be filled with peace and joy.