‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Sure, that’s’ the goal but it is not always quite so simple…The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many it is extremely stressful and overwhelming. There can be unrealistic expectations for joy and gift giving, financial pressures and strain, overindulgence of food/drink that takes a physical toll, and tense family dynamics.
The holidays are notoriously challenging for those undergoing stressful life changes, such as separation or divorce. Those enduring these experiences may endure amplified loneliness and disappointment this time of year, while others are filled with holiday cheer.
Whatever your situation may be, it is an important time to make space for your own wellness. You have a week left of 2019. Take some time to ground and re-center yourself, prior to going into the new year. While you may be caught up in the hustle and bustle of baking, cooking, gift giving, visiting with family/friends, and trying to make the holidays nice for your kids or the people around you – do not forget about yourself. Give yourself permission to soak in the aspects of the holidays that bring you joy and also make some space to recognize your own needs and fill your own bucket. Prioritize wellness. Please take a moment and review our Tips for Holiday Self-Care.
1. Listen to your body It is always important to listen to your body’s signals, but it can be particularly easy to ignore them when caught up with the stress of the holidays. Make the extra effort to notice what your body needs. If you need to sleep, prioritize rest and good sleep hygiene. If you need a break from sugar, say no to Grandma’s pizzelles. If you are hungry, eat something nourishing. Allow yourself to take care of your body’s needs without feeling guilty.
2. Get moving Prioritize exercise and view it as a treat instead of a burden. Even going for a short walk can have an immense positive impact on mood and stress level. Though we are often pulled to staying sedentary and putting off exercise until the new year, those patterns of behavior only exacerbate feelings of depression and lethargy, and may ultimately worsen feelings of stress and anxiety. Do yourself a favor and find some time to get your body moving.
3. Remember to breathe Taking deep, centering breaths and taking time to focus on your breath throughout your day can have great relaxation benefits on both body and mind. Close your eyes, rest your feet flat on the ground, deeply inhale, and then exhale all of your breath. Repeat and repeat again until you feel your heart rate slow and your mind more at ease. Do this throughout your day as general practice and additionally during times you are feeling overwhelmed.It seems like such a simple thing, but it is truly an effective stress-relieving intervention.
4. Embrace the present Sometimes trying to keep up with holiday traditions or create the “perfect holiday” can create more stress than joy. As life changes, it can be helpful to be open to new traditions or experiences. Give yourself space and time to enjoy your present moments and embrace your holiday as is, without getting overly caught up in trying to make it fit the cookie cutter shape you imagine it to be.
5. Set boundaries Set boundaries with both yourself and others. If you are scrambling to get a million last minute holiday preparation items done, just choose the most important ones. You are human and there are only so many hours in the day. Let go of the panic and pressure and give yourself a break.Know your limits with others and exercise your boundaries. Whether it is about topics that are off limits with family, too many “asks” of you, or being pulled in many different directions, set and hold your boundaries. Be mindful of your own needs.
6. Feel your feelings With so many conflicting emotions this time of year, many of us try to distract from them or stifle them with food, drink, and inauthenticity. Give yourself a break from that extra effort. Make space to allow yourself to feel how you feel and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Surround yourself with people who support you at your most genuine and allow yourself to just be.
7. Practice the power of positive thinking Training your mind to think positively can have incredibly beneficial impact on emotions and behaviors. Start with gratitude. Write yourself a list of 20 things you are grateful for, no matter how small. When your mind goes toward a negative, have an internal dialogue with yourself and find a way to flip it around to find an area of gratitude. Yes, this is much easier said than done, but it is worth a try!
8. Access support and ask for help Know who your supports are and have those numbers handy. Determine who the people in your life are that are positive, non-judgmental, and supportive of you. Be there when those people need you and don’t hesitate to reach out when you need a supportive ear. Yes, even during the holidays. Especially during the holidays. If you don’t have people like this around you, start thinking about what changes you can make to connect with people who may add something positive to your life.
Call your therapist or get your next therapy appointment on the calendar. If you do not have a therapist, consider adding therapy to your support structure in the new year. Every one of us can benefit from individual therapy. Whether you are struggling to cope with specific stressors or trying to change long-standing patterns that aren’t serving you well, therapeutic emotional support is invaluable.
Wishing you peace, joy, hope, and happiness during this holiday season and always!