By Rabbi Dr. Robert L. Kravitz
Every New Year presents us with a chance to pause and reflect on the past year. Considered a festive time, many will dress up and attend New Year’s Eve/Day parties and watch football.
As in every special season, our tradition calls upon us to look for moderation in our celebrations. Too much of anything is ‘too much.’ Just as we break the glass at the festive wedding ceremony to balance that joy with the difficulties of our history, we must reign in some of our exuberance as the New Year commences, and we begin new challenges.
The past few years, with the pandemic and other scary world events, have been challenging for all of us. And while it is critical to take care of those around us, it is equally important to take the time to care for ourselves.
In the Talmud (Bava Metzia 62a) we read a statement from Rabbi Akiva using the words Chayechah kodmim – your life first. This principle teaches that one’s life takes precedence over another’s. We must take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically.
Good mental health and physical well-being allow us to live our lives in a more positive and meaningful way, offering the space we need to cope with life’s challenges and constant changes. Recognizing what coping skills work for us individually is a great opportunity for success.
Positive Coping Skills
There are many approaches to self-care and coping. If you are a spiritual person – you may find comfort in prayer or meditation. An artist? Drawing or painting may be your avenue. If you play an instrument or dance, your self-care opportunities may come from there. Whatever you do, the important thing is that you identify and develop those skills that will help you thrive and build personal resilience.
Some other recommended coping skills may include:
- Maintaining friendships,
- Getting regular exercise,
- Keeping a balanced diet,
- Asking for help and accept it when it is offered,
- Thinking of yourself as your own best friend, and being kind to yourself,
- Planning something to look forward to,
- Spending some quality time for yourself, away from the usual demands of everyday life,
- Getting a good night’s sleep.
Benefits of Self-Care
One of the benefits of this New Year’s celebration is the opportunity to reflect on our well-being, to be mentally present and personally compassionate when interacting with others. After COVID-19 separations this may be especially challenging for some.
Here are additional benefits to ourselves that self-care may offer:
- Decreasing stress, or becoming better equipped to handle stress or unexpected changes,
- Improving concentration,
- Possibly minimizing frustration and anger,
- Finding more energy,
- Boosting your immune system,
- Increasing your ability to be mentally present and compassionate when interacting with others.
At this season of New Year’s Resolutions, we have the opportunity to re-set and re-affirm our commitment to ourselves and to those who are dear to us. Our well-being, and theirs, is critical to celebrating a truly happy New Year.