Self-Care for the Holidays

Ah, it's that time of year again.  You may have started your holiday planning and shopping, RSVPing to various events, and/or getting ready to host.  For most of us, the holidays are a mix of excitement, gift giving and receiving, and spending time with the ones we love.

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On the flip side, it may also involve running harried, stretching ourselves too thin, dealing with competing demands, and family drama.  Relationships may become (more) strained.  Whereas some level of increased stress is to be expected, the holidays can also bring out additional difficult feelings, such as grief and loneliness.

The need for self-care and boundaries is higher than ever at this time of year, although ironically we likely have less time to do so.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Be kind and gentle with yourself.  When multiple demands compete for our energy and attention, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in the present and enjoy the moment.  
  • Identify now how you want to take care of yourself.  For some, this means scheduling time with a dear friend.  For others, it could be unwinding with hot tea or cocoa at night and sticking to an exercise routine.
  • Notice when you become reactive.  When you notice having a shorter fuse, for example, take a long and gentle moment to reflect on what is really causing it.  What may initially feel like annoyance with slow moving lines or traffic, might really be about pressure to keep up, or feeling taken advantage of, or having familiar buttons pushed by a family member.
  • Holiday stress may get acted out in relationships.  This may create a wish to withdraw from others or engage in various escape fantasies.  Be careful not to entirely give in - spending meaningful quality time with others usually leaves us feeling better. 
  • Be aware how you respond to interpersonal conflict.  Do you pursue or withdraw?  These patterns may get exacerbated with holiday stress.  Just being aware can help you modify your responses to others.
  • Be a clear communicator.  Let others know what you're willing and able to contribute, and also communicate what you are not able to do.  Read this post about assertiveness skills.
  • If you are spending the holidays alone, plan quality time for yourself as well as some time to be around others.  Joining a community that has meaning to you, religious or secular, is good for mental health.  Volunteering and giving back during the holidays can be immensely rewarding.  Shifting focus from inward to outward can help put difficult feelings in perspective.  Plan your participation early as volunteer opportunities on holidays fill up quickly.
  • Take note of what you are grateful for.  It helps put things in perspective.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

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Staying Sane During The Holidays - Part II

I ran across this fantastic column in the Huffington Post and felt like I needed to share it here.  The author is Laura Munson, who has also written a book and a column in the

New York Times.  In the spirit of the holiday season and taking care of oneself during this hurried time, consider this an opportunity to stop, breathe, and re-prioritize your life.  For more tips on staying sane during the holidays, please also see my previous blog entry.

Check out this great column by clicking on the link below:

Why I'm Not Micromanaging Christmas This Year

by Laura Munson

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Stay Sane During The Holidays

Ah, they are sneaking up on us - signs of imminent holidays.  Decorations are popping up both indoors and outdoors, there is faint hint of a jingle in the air, commercials are calling out, media programming reflects that 'tis the season, and stores are starting to buzz.  The holidays can fill us with excitement, anticipation, joy, and...stress.  There are parties to attend and/or throw, family get-togethers to get through, gifts to buy (if you're giving), homes and spaces to decorate, and work deadlines to meet.

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For almost anyone, the holidays are accompanied by mixed feelings.  The season calls for celebration, companionship, and (for many) spiritual reflection.  Yet we also often find ourselves confronted by hastiness, feelings of running out of time, financial challenges, and navigating the minefield of family relationships and related politics.

How can we stay grounded in the next few weeks?  Here are some things to consider:

1.  Set healthy boundaries with yourself and others.  This means knowing when to say no.  It also means not letting yourself get pulled into toxic relationship dynamics, often rekindled at family get-togethers.  Pick and fight your own battles, and let others do the same.  Know when to step out and give yourself time to catch your breath.

2.  Practice self-care.  This means staying in tune with your stress level and practicing active stress-management.  Pay attention to your body - the holidays often pack on the pounds, so set your food goals early on.  This could mean limiting your intake of sweets (just one cookie for me, thanks) and avoiding going back for seconds.  Make time to exercise. Make time to relax with a cup of tea.

3.  Connect meaningfully.  Think about the relationships in your life which leave you filling energized instead of depleted.  In the holiday rush, we may lack time to make that phone call or have coffee with a friend.  Be mindful of your time to allow for meaningful conversations and connections.  Holidays can be a time of sadness and loneliness.  Seek support when needed.

4.  Take time to reflect.  Make sure to allow space for spirituality or meaning, whatever this means to you personally, during this season.

Happy Holidays!

If you are having trouble navigating the many stressors of the holiday season, support is essential.  Sometimes, talking to mental health professional can help.