The holiday season is often presented in an idealized way. Pop culture and other depictions of the holidays often center on a picture-perfect narrative: beautifully wrapped gifts, delicious food, time spent with your family and friends, and feelings of happiness and contentment. For some, this is an accurate portrayal of the holiday season. For others, particularly those who have experienced trauma, this idealized version of the holidays can create feelings of anxiety, fear, pressure, tension, or fatigue.
This year, the holidays will look different than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pressure to attend or host a big gathering may be gone, there are a number of other ways that you may feel pressure in the coming weeks. That is why it is so important to have a self-care plan in place.
Self-care includes any activity that we deliberately do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It can look different for each person, and may include anything from going to the doctor regularly to getting outdoors to eating nutritious food. In essence, it is anything that we deliberately do — or refrain from doing — to take care of ourselves.
The concept of self-care has been distorted by the media and advertising industries to encompass things like regular spa days, shopping trips, drinking wine in the bathtub, or taking a vacation. While self-care can include any or all of these things, it is so much more than that. At its core, self-care means prioritizing our own well-being by regularly checking in with ourselves and doing what we need to do to stay healthy. It isn’t selfish. Instead, it is about doing what we need to do to take care of ourselves, so that we will be able to care for our loved ones as well.
There are a number of ways that you can engage in self-care during the holiday season, particularly during this time of increased stress and anxiety related to COVID-19. To take care of yourself during this holiday season, try:
Setting reasonable expectations: if you come into the holiday season with the expectation that everything will be perfect — that your cookies will be instagram-worthy, that your kids will be grateful for every gift that they receive or that you will get the gifts that you want — it can lead to disappointment when things don’t go as planned. Instead, remember that the holidays are like any other days, and they don’t have to be perfect.
Being kind to yourself: it can be easy to come down hard on yourself when you don’t achieve certain goals. Give yourself some grace this holiday season, and throughout the year. Try to think of yourself as kindly as you would a loved one. You may be surprised at how reframing the way you “talk” to yourself can change your mood.
Taking time for yourself: with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be hard to find time to do something that is just for you. Carve out some space to read, meditate, play video games, listen to music, or do whatever else you enjoy doing to relax.
Setting boundaries: it is all too easy to feel like you “have” to do something or else the holidays will be ruined, especially if another person pressures you to do that thing. Remember that you get to decide how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with, in December and beyond. It is OK to say no.
Remembering that your feelings are valid: the holidays can often lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, and isolation. You don’t have to push these emotions down because you are supposed to feel happy during this time. Acknowledge how you are feeling, and give yourself time to work through those emotions.
Practicing healthy habits: the holidays are known for excess: too much food, drink, and even spending. Try to establish a routine during this time, such as taking a daily walk, getting a full night of sleep, or eating nutritious foods, to keep yourself healthy. While indulging isn’t a bad thing, too much of anything can make it hard for us to maintain our wellness.
Leaning on your support system: the pandemic has made it harder than ever to connect with others. Take advantage of the various ways to get support during this holiday season, whether that means calling or texting with friends, scheduling a Zoom with loved ones, or engaging in tele-counseling. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone, and reach out to others in your life.
Taking these steps (and others) can help you stay in balance during what can be a challenging time for many people.
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