How to Maintain Your Self-Care Through the Holidays
The holiday season can bring mixed emotions. Though it’s a joyous time, the holidays can be overwhelming and even bring on a sense of dread for those with difficult family relationships. Even people with healthy family relationships can get overwhelmed by a busy holiday social calendar.
“The most wonderful time of the year” can feel like anything but wonderful for those who struggle with mental health.
Prioritizing self-care during this time can feel difficult for many. If you tend to get stressed or experience symptoms of depression during the holidays, this blog is for you. Use the tools below to help you enjoy the season while managing the holiday blues and the stress of the season.
Remember it’s okay to not be okay.
If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays may remind you of their absence. In French, “I miss you” is “Tu me manque”, which literally means “you are missing from me”.
If you already see a therapist, schedule your sessions ahead of time to prepare yourself and work through your feelings. There’s absolutely no shame in talking about your feelings and getting help.
Set boundaries and respect your time.
Holiday to-do lists can include many outings, social gatherings, events, and obligations. Many of these may be fun and fill your cup, but they may at times feel draining – both emotionally and physically. Remember that “no” is a complete sentence and that setting boundaries is a way to protect your time and energy so that you can maintain your peace and actually enjoy the things that you’ve said yes to.
Ways to set boundaries during the holidays:
- Schedule shopping trips and holiday crafting. Set time limits. If you know an all-day excursion will likely cause you to feel drained, opt for an hour or two instead. Choose one or two stores rather than shopping at multiple places.
- The holidays can be an expensive time and many people stress over money. If finances are a concern, set a budget for holiday spending. Choose thoughtfully thrifted gifts or homemade ones instead of expensive gifts. Start budgeting for the holidays as early as possible.
- Social events may fill up your calendar. It’s okay to say no to some of these, particularly ones that you instinctually want to decline. Avoid overdoing it so that you have time to recharge between events. If you have people in your life who are emotionally draining to spend time with, don’t feel obligated to accept their invitations. A simple phone call or text thanking them for their invitation but respectfully declining is perfectly acceptable.
Know your triggers.
Some activities, movies, and even people may be triggers. Avoid the things that you know will be painful. Swap out triggering activities for something that will be meaningful for you. Skip watching holiday movies if they will trigger painful memories. If a family member or acquaintance is challenging to be around, skip events that they are going to. Or if you must go, limit your time at these events instead of staying the entire time.
Manage your expectations.
Set realistic expectations of events and family to avoid disappointment. High expectations are normal – holiday movies, decorations, and music are all reminders that this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” filled with happy families, abundance, and joy. But looking back honestly at how holiday events have felt in the past and how the people in your life have treated you will help you set realistic expectations.
Make your space cozy.
If decorating for the holidays feels daunting, let go of the pressure to go all out on holiday decor and instead focus on creating a comforting space.
Decorating is not a necessity, but if you choose to decorate, find ways to make your home feel cozy. A soft blanket or throw pillows can add some warmth to your space or a candle or essential oils with relaxing scents can do the trick.
Give yourself time to recharge.
Schedule plenty of time for self-care. Whether that’s an appointment with your therapist, a yoga class, a meditation session, a massage, or simply a relaxing bath, you deserve some me-time during this stressful season.
This season of giving is full of opportunities to give to others – but we often forget to give to ourselves. Find small ways to give back to yourself throughout the holidays. A comforting meal, a small gift you find for yourself doing holiday shopping, or even writing a note for yourself can be great ways to give yourself love and appreciation.
Above all else, be kind to yourself. Give yourself time and space so that you can enjoy the season.