By Ashley Geist, LPC
The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot to handle. So how do we reclaim the peace and joy that the holidays were meant to be about? Read on for simple self-care ideas to boost our well-being during a very busy and sometimes emotional part of the year.
1. Use a water bottle every day. This one might seem boring or obvious, but hydration or lack thereof affects our whole bodies including our brains, mood, decision-making, and overall functioning. Keeping hydrated fends off germs and helps us feel our best. Alternate glasses of water when consuming caffeine or alcohol as well.
2. Schedule stress relief. Whether it is using an app like Calm or Headspace all by yourself, going out with friends, or getting a massage, oftentimes if we don’t put these things on the calendar, they won’t happen.
Choose some activities that make you feel great, even on a tough day, and aim for one larger scheduled stress reliever each week and some mini-stress relief each day. For example, dinner out on Friday night, plus a daily coffee or tea break with fifteen minutes of reading your favorite book or magazine, most days of the week.
3. Outsource and Delete. Oftentimes we are doing MUCH more than we need to be, based on outside expectations, or pressure that we put on ourselves. Consider outsourcing OR deleting obligations that don’t serve you and your family at this time.
If the yearly family picture and greeting card fill your heart with joy – do it. If the yearly card is more painful than taxes, don’t do it. Does a day of baking make you feel amazing? Or would you rather outsource this to a local grocery store or bakery and enjoy a sweet treat made by someone else? There’s no right or wrong here, do what works for you and your family right now, and know that every year is different. If it’s been a tough time, give yourself grace.
4. Identify and Make Peace with Priorities. It’s easy to get wrapped up in details and preparations and lose sight of why we are doing these things in the first place. We can Identify what means the most to us and our loved ones this season, then make peace with doing those things, and the preparations that come along with those activities. It’s also okay to let go of other activities that might not be priorities right now.
If it means a lot to us to host large gatherings in our homes, we may need to accept that this means more cleaning and shopping beforehand and choose to be okay with that instead of being stressed out that it’s occurring. We might say to ourselves, “This is a lot, but I’m choosing to do this, to make family memories this year.”
5. Re-imagine Your Celebrations. Traditions can exist alongside new ideas. As families change and grow and go through different seasons, it makes sense to pair favorite family traditions with new ways of acknowledging a holiday or celebrating as well. If a big family dinner has become too much of a burden, how about a potluck-style gathering instead?
Another example: being flexible with our visiting schedules while still making a favorite holiday treat passed down through generations can be a great way to honor that what’s best for the family may have changed, but the love and memories have not. If your family wants to try a holiday vacation, less or no gifts, a family skating evening, or a craft, it might just become your family’s new favorite memory.
6. Plan and take breaks as needed. We all need a break sometimes. If seasonal preparations are becoming too much, take some time to take a shower, go to bed early, go on a coffee run, or go shopping alone if possible. Be sure to plan some downtime after the holiday season as well. A slow weekend without plans or even a few hours to yourself after everyone goes home can make a big difference, having a break to look forward to after the festivities are over can help us enjoy them even more.
7. Avoid Comparison. The pictures and videos of families on advertisements, social media, and holiday cards are just that – curated images, directed videos, and snapshots in time that are NOT representative of a whole, human experience. Avoid comparing your own experiences to that of others and remember, EVERYONE goes through their struggles and situations. It’s natural to have headaches, experience family drama, etc. even and especially around holidays.
8. Manage Energy & Expectations. Is your favorite aunt feeling crabby instead of jolly this year? Sometimes things just are what they are. We might be gathered for the holidays, but that doesn’t mean that we stop being humans.
Remember that often the only things actually within our control include our responses, words, actions, etc. It’s okay to enjoy yourself even when others are not. Vice versa, if we are struggling, others can still have a good time, even if we aren’t having our best day ever. Especially in seasons of grief, it’s OK to just have an ok or not-so-great time. Lowering our expectations of what a celebration might be or feel like might even lead to having a better time overall.
9. Look for Moments of Joy. Even if we are having a challenging time ourselves, we can still look for small moments of joy. Did we enjoy that bite of fudge? Did we laugh along with a little child as they played with toys or enjoyed a holiday song or hug? Sometimes when we aren’t feeling our best, little moments can make a huge difference.
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