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ways to practice compassion

The holidays are a time when families come together to celebrate the season of gratitude and while the time is often marked by abundance, it can also be a time of great need. It can be easy to assume that everyone is doing well during the holidays, but even in seemingly stable families, there exist struggling first time mamas, extended family who may be going to the food bank for the first time, mamas who are secretly going through a divorce and wondering how to get by during the coming year and family members facing a diagnosis that will require hospitalization.

Why not use this time together to look for and help your friends and family that could use an extra hand this holiday season?

Here are five ways to weave compassion—for yourself and others—on Giving Tuesday and into the coming holidays:

1. Check in—don't assume everything is okay.

Do you have a friend or family member that you think might be going through something? Check in and ask. Offer to take them out to lunch, send them a card or a text. Make a phone call. You don't have to pry into their life but be there and listen to what they have to say. The holidays can trigger all kinds of feelings and are a good time to touch base, especially amid the flurry of holiday cards and photos.

2. Listen to understand

There's a difference between "listen to talk" and "listen to understand." Listening to understand means you're actively listening to the other person. You're not in the "problem-solving mindset," you're in the "exploration" mindset. Your friend may simply need to talk. Or they might need advice or a second opinion. Whatever it is, you won't know unless you practice listening to understand. Creating space for those story-telling family members is a great place to start— studies show that recounting stories improves self-esteem in seniors.

3. Care for yourself

Maybe you're the one who is always there for everyone and always showing up when people need it most, and maybe this year, you're going through struggles of your own. Tell someone you need to talk and make the time to do it, whether it's a friend, a family member, a therapist or a counselor. Your needs are valid and important and your family and friends will respect that you know how to ask for and get the help you need to live your best life. Make it the gift you give yourself this year.

4. Find causes that speak to you

Find nonprofits and causes that you can make an ongoing part of your life. Why? Because when a cause speaks to you, you're more likely to look for creative ways to help it. When you're actively involved with a cause you believe in, you're more likely to talk about it with your friends and encourage them to give back in ways that are meaningful in their lives. Giving Tuesday is just one day, but a great day to start.

5. Get organized

When you know someone who is going through a hardship, like a loved one in the hospital, the birth of a new baby, a sick child, or the death of a loved one, organize your friends and family to help them. This can be done with online tools like Give InKind that help you coordinate financial contributions, calendar tasks, chores and more on a dedicated page that helps the person in need get exactly what they need. Time spent with family is a great time to pull together and make a plan for supporting someone you love.

No matter how you give and give back this holiday season and beyond, stay mindful about those in need. May we all be lucky enough to not need, but when we do, may we all have the support of our loved ones and community to help us through.

This article was originally published on Give In Kind and it has been republished with permission from the author.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

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A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

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