Self Care During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again. A time for friends and family. A time for shopping and get togethers. A time for adding a million extra things to our already overloaded plates, all in the spirit of the holidays, which we may or may not actually enjoy. Whether you love the holidays, or you’re just trying to survive them, the fact remains that no one gets through them without SOME added stress, anxiety, and exhaustion! So how do we make sure we’re not left feeling run ragged after all the celebrating is over?

The World Health Organization defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” Because the truth is, even if we have an excellent doctor and/or therapist helping us navigate the most challenging parts of life, they cannot be with us all the time. We have to find a way to care for ourselves between appointments, and come up with healthy coping mechanisms to implement in our day to day, no matter how much we might be struggling.

Self care typically falls into one of 5 categories. Spiritual self care, emotional self care, mental self care, physical self care, and social self care. Sometimes, we might struggle with one of these types more than others. For example, my partner has no issue taking care of himself physically, emotionally or spiritually, but struggles this time of year with the social obligations, which can take a huge toll on his mental well being. It’s important to recognize our limits, and to set good and strong boundaries for ourselves as we’re thick in the middle of what is supposed to be a joyous season. For my partner, this looks like limiting social engagements to those that he can enjoy, that don’t leave him feeling completely drained, and that can provide an energy that he doesn’t get from just spending time at home. So he’ll say yes to the small, intimate gatherings with our close friends and family, and to the ones that are important to our children, but is not afraid to say no to large gatherings that can trigger his social anxiety, and he’s careful not to cram too much into too short a period. We tend to try to spread the activities out over several weeks, and take much needed breaks in between obligations, to give him time to rest and reset.

Can you identify the areas that you might need to be more intentional about self care? Do you find social activities life giving and energizing, but struggle with the emotional and mental exhaustion that can come from planning all the things? How is your physical health during this season? Do you struggle to maintain a physically healthy balance between enjoying the holidays and being too exhausted and physically run down to really engage in the activities that you have planned? Or do you feel mentally overwhelmed by everything going on? If so, those are areas you should be practicing self care in.

So, what does that look like? What does it mean to practice self care during the holidays? The first step is to identify which areas of self care need the most attention in your life. It could be just one, or a couple, or maybe even all of them. Start with a self check. What aspects of the holidays leave you feeling drained? And HOW are you feeling drained? Of the five areas we’ve discussed, do you feel more exhausted in one or two than others? If so, those are the areas you need to focus on. If social activities are leaving you feeling anxious and uncomfortable, take a break. Have a plan, and set realistic boundaries. Maybe you need to commit to no more than 2 social activities a month, or maybe just one a week. Offset the social obligations that you’re NOT looking forward to by grabbing coffee with a friend you’re excited to spend time with.

If you’re feeling physically drained, then you’re doing too much. Like our finances, our time is a luxury that must be budgeted. Every time you say “yes” to something, you have to understand that you’re saying “no” to something else. Don’t let what you’re saying “no” to, be your own well being. Make it a point to go to bed earlier a night or two a week, or sleep in when you can. If you’re the type of person who can power nap, pencil one into your daily routine.

Most importantly, ask for help! Chances are, you’re not the only one in your family benefitting from everything you’re doing to make the holidays magical, so rely on the help of others to lessen the load, and keep your exhaustion in check. You can even combine spending time with friends and family with checking things off your to do list; invite someone to run errands with you, bake cookies with you, do your holiday crafting together, and meal plan together. So many of us are in the same boat of trying to get too much done during the holidays, so why not lean on each other? If these things aren’t a feasible option for you, do not underestimate the power of saying NO. If you can’t physically, mentally, or emotionally handle a task, then it is okay to simply say no, I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to attend that. I’m not going to stress over this.

Be honest with yourself, and with others. For a season that’s supposed to be about togetherness, many of us tend to isolate ourselves and carry the burden alone, which never ends well. There’s a difference between isolation and taking time for yourself, and it’s important to find the balance! If you struggle to find that balance, it might be time to meet with a therapist, or talk to yours if you already have one, to come up with some tools that will help you put yourself first. This will ensure that you can move forward into the new year without running yourself ragged, whether it be emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually. Feel free to reach out to us at Wellness Psychological Services to see if one of our therapists can assist.

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