A Holiday Self-Care Guide
by Billie Walters, LMSW
Planning ahead can help reduce the amount of stress you may experience during the holiday season. Some things you can do to plan ahead: Shop early for gifts, goodies or meals; make lists to organize and prioritize your “to do”; communicate with family and friends so that everyone is on the same page.
Set realistic goals, ditch the perfectionism, do what is within your ability, say NO and don’t compare yourself to others. It is understandable to have visions of what you want your holidays to look like and every advertiser in the country is ready to help you achieve your dream. Nevertheless, your peace of mind rests solely on your ability to let go of the ideal and accept the reality. Do what is within your means on all levels; financially, physically and emotionally. When you feel that you are being asked to do something that is outside of your ability, comfort zone, means or whatever you want to call it, just say NO. Also, remember that life is not a competition, live yours for you.
Self-compassion is the ability to take the compassion you normally have for others and turn it inward. We are human beings who make mistakes so forgive yourself, do not isolate and remember that you are part of a shared human experience. For more on self-compassion, to test your level of self-compassion and find exercises, go to www.selfcompassion.org.
Use Moderation – With Everything
As a culture, we tend to overindulge during the holiday season and this can lead to physical symptoms as well as emotional drain. Practice moderation when consuming alcohol or foods high in sugar and saturated fats. Set a budget for you gift buying and stay within your limits when purchasing this season – this can be extended to all purchasing during this time as we are lead to believe that we won’t experience savings any other time of the year. Use moderation when cooking and even decorating your home. While it can be satisfying to get in the spirit of the holidays, everything you do takes energy and your energy can be conserved by using moderation.
One of the main ingredients in creating your own happiness is gratitude. It is popular to count our blessings on Thanksgiving but being thankful beyond Thanksgiving can give us a boost to our mood. Some ways to practice gratitude are writing a gratitude journal, going for gratitude walks, sending a thank you to someone who has been a positive influence in your life and just saying “thank you”.
Practicing mindfulness can be your calm in the holiday storm. You do not need to take up a strict meditation practice (although that could be helpful) but here are some tips to help you lessen your risk of anxiety during these busy times. Be present – be in the present moment and focus on what you are doing and who you are with, limit distracting thoughts. Let go of judgment – being in the moment can lead you to notice things that may not be pleasant. Let go of how you feel about it and accept that it is. If you are in a long line at the mall, you may notice that someone is wearing strong perfume. Notice the smell and accept that it is strong without judging the experience. Also, limit your distractions – it is so easy to distract ourselves with technology or thoughts of things that we have no control over. Set limits for yourself and if you notice that you are getting distracted, stop the thoughts or the technology and get to your to-do list or join in with conversations that may be taking place around you.
Ask for Help
You can follow these steps to help reduce holiday stress and anxiety this season; but if you notice that you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can talk to a trusted friend or relative or contact our office to make an appointment to talk to one of our therapists or consultants. Billie Walters is an expert on learning to practice self-care methods. You can call Billie Walters for a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation at 616-258-6419. Learn more about Billie here and here .