6 Ways of Holiday Self-Care
by Donna Brown
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Except, it’s not. Not for everyone. The holidays can be a time of overwhelm, when even those of us who manage to keep everything, just about, on an even keel throughout the year can begin to feel unbalanced. Struggle with social anxiety? Welcome to the season from hell. For many people, the holidays may be a season of goodwill. For others, it’s a season of guilt. We worry we’re not the life and soul of the party and might be bringing others down. We worry about what people will think of us if we don’t feel able to attend a social function. Worse, we can feel lonely, even when surrounded by others, because it doesn’t feel like a time to be sharing. Presents? Yes. Feelings? Sadly, not so much.
I can only speak from my own experience but I also find this a hard time of year so today I’m sharing a few of the things that make it a little easier for me. I hope these 6 Ways of Holiday Self-care are of some help and I’ve love to hear your own tips in the comments!
6 Ways of Holiday Self-Care
Don’t Forget to Breathe…
It’s a busy time of year. You can’t pause in a shop without being jostled. The pace of everything can seem relentless. If you can, even if only for 1 minute, take the time to stop, breathe and centre yourself. I use Pacifica’s one minute visualisations for this. You can use a prerecorded one or record your own. Sometimes those 60 seconds where you stop, breathe and refocus can be enough to tell yourself that you’ve got this. You can do this. I follow up with a longer meditation at home, usually with Pacifica or Calm (both available with free plans), but those one minute reprieves can be powerful. If you need something more visual, these beautiful gifs from DeStress Monday could help:
The reason I always struggled with meditation is because it looks like it should be easy and it’s not. When you think about it, though, we’re trying to stop an ever spinning wheel from moving for a few minutes:
Many of us spend much of our life on autopilot. We get tangled up in thoughts and stories and we don’t even notice that our mind is spinning, as if it were trapped on a hamster wheel. (Calm)
Try Calm’s ‘How to Meditate in Eleven Steps’ post and remember that learning to meditate is like learning any new skill. Give yourself a bit of time – and patience – to adjust to this new practice.
Take a Walk
As Jennifer Landis pointed out on Monday and Dave Brown built on yesterday, there are multiple benefits to walking and getting fresh air, not least of all the opportunity to put a little physical distance between yourself and the growing to do list, sprouts waiting to be peeled, presents waiting to be wrapped. A short walk can be enough to put some distance between us and the thing that was causing us stress and anxiety and, although it will likely still be there when we get back, our capacity to deal with it may just have been recharged a little. If you struggle to disconnect from the busy world or find your thoughts racing, consider a walking meditation to help focus your awareness.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry – In Moderation
The holidays really are a time of indulgence and not just on 25th December. It sometimes feels like from November onwards, temptation is everywhere! But sometimes, to be kind to ourselves, we have to say no. We know in our hearts that we have eaten more than enough but someone suggests just one piece of cake or bowl of Christmas pudding, so we take it, even though later we realise that eating until we felt sick just took the shine off the whole meal. Dr Daniel Glaser, director of Science Gallery at King’s College London, explains that “if we carried on eating until blood sugar levels returned to normal, we’d probably explode”. We can’t really trust our bodies on this one. We just need to take a little less sometimes, let the food settle, and then see if we really do want that sweet treat a little later when we’ll probably enjoy it more.
Don’t Fall For the ‘Snap Out of It’ Fallacy
It would be the ultimate holiday gift, wouldn’t it? If we could wake up one morning and realise that we could just smile our way out of the sadness or anxiety? Sadly, we can’t, and the holidays can be one of the worse times of year. We know we’re supposed to be happy. We know the idea is that if we just slap on a smile, the day will be magically transformed. You might even be able to convince yourself for a couple of hours that the party you really felt in every fibre of your being was not a good idea is not so bad. Then roll on the next day when the anxiety hangover means you are so drained you struggle to get up. Listen to your body. If the price you pay for doing something you allegedly “should” for a couple of hours is that the next couple of days are dogged by exhaustion, it really wasn’t worth it. Spend your energy reserves wisely, particularly on difficult days.
Self-Care Doesn’t Mean You Have to Do it Alone
We don’t want to feel like a burden at any time of the year but the sad truth is that sometimes we do and never more so than at times when we’re supposed to be happy. (A little side note here: saying “there are people so much worse off than you” doesn’t help, even if it’s true. We know it’s meant with love but sadly it only reinforces what our brain constantly tells us about how guilty we should feel because we can have a lovely life and still find anxiety incredibly hard.) If you really don’t feel that you want to share and confide in those around you, don’t forget there are other people you can talk to. Sane runs discussion boards where you can chat to other people and support one another. If, like me, you’re in the UK, Blurt also has a list of support sites and networks you can turn to. If you’re in the US, ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) has an online support group, whilst Mental Health America has a list of specialised support groups and other resources.
If you find yourself alone on Christmas Day, turn to Twitter. It might seem a strange suggestion but for several years, British comedian Sarah Millican has run the #joinin campaign on Christmas Day, uniting people who are on their own.
This is for those who don’t choose to be alone, but who are, for some reason, on their tod/bob/lonesome. Be it because they have no family, are estranged from their family, it’s not their turn to have the kids, even just that their partner is at work, whatever. Alone and would rather not be. This is who #joinin is for. (Sarah Millican)
For anyone starting to worry about being alone/lonely on Christmas Day, I will be doing #joinin again on here. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a hashtag we use to connect all of those who could do with some company. Join us for #joinin.
— Sarah Millican (@SarahMillican75) November 12, 2017
Remember That YOU Are a Part of Your Family
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worry that by not doing certain things or attending certain events, you might be letting down your family but it’s important to remember that you are part of your own family too. Would you want Aunt Joan to attend your New Year drinks even if she would spend the whole evening feeling sick and trapped? Or be exhausted for days afterwards for the sake of a couple of hours? Of course not. You would completely understand that that particular event at that particular time was too much. Give yourself a little break. Offer yourself the courtesy you would offer another individual. It is true that sometimes we have to push ourselves a little but there are limits. You know your own body and mind, far better than anyone else. Listen to it and on days when things are tough, be as kind to yourself as you would to anyone else in your family in the same situation.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. ” Christopher Germer
I wish you a happy holidays and hope you can also take some of these self-care tips forward into 2018. Please do share your own self-care advice and ideas in the comments!
***Stop by tomorrow to read Terri’s own post, A Christmas Story***
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts and a (very) occasional writer of short stories and poetry, Donna is Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats who keep her on her toes even more than her much-loved day job (virtual assistant). She occasionally blogs about mental health at Fragmentary Thoughts.
You can follow Donna on Twitter.