HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE (WEEK 3): HOLIDAY SELF-CARE
One of the first things that pop in my head when I think about self-care and the holiday season is all of the expectations. We are expected to be so many places (seemingly at once), to have the perfect gifts picked out, perform exactly right when a distant relative gives us yet another jello mold, and do it all with a cheery happy smile, dammit. There are travel plans and gift wrapping guides and “how do we talk to the kids about Santa?!” conversations.
There can be the grief of lost loved ones or the aching open spaces of loved ones who are so, so far away. So much of the holiday season is spent focusing very much on others. We’re taught very well to give and extend and perform.
Which can be a great thing! Until it isn’t.
We don’t just have to survive this holiday season, friends. With self-care, we can totally thrive. Lots of it comes down to how we’re supporting ourselves while we’re also busy planning, decorating, and shopping for others.
First step? Mindfulness, baby!
AWARENESS IS KEY TO SELF-CARE
It’s really hard to have our needs met when we aren’t really sure what it is we need. If you ask me, a big portion of the journey is learning how to listen to what our bodies are asking for. It sounds so ridiculously simple, right? To notice how you feel? It totally is and it totally isn’t! The concept is simple, the practice takes, well, some practice. Imagine not ever noticing that you feel hungry. We know that we need to eat on a regular basis to maintain our physical wellness, but satiating that need gets complicated if we never notice the feeling. It’s the same thing for every other need we might have.
If we start to notice that we’re getting really burned out, what feeling is behind the experience of burnout? What has worked when this feeling comes up at different times? What do I actually need right now? Be curious about your own experiencing.
While I’m not usually one who pushes the “choose happy” narrative, there is some really solid neuroscientific research that says the practice of gratitude is linked to very real physiological effects in our brains. According to research, simply pondering about the things we’re grateful for releases dopamine and serotonin, the chemicals associated with joy and connection.
By adding a gratitude practice to our regular routine can actually shift the neural pathways in your brain and strengthen the connection between the world around us and the feeling of gratitude. Now, a gratitude practice isn’t the same thing as ignoring boundaries that have been crossed or blindly choosing to focus only on the positive. Life gets real! You get to be real with it! Feel your feelings and practice feeling grateful for the things in your life that you are grateful for.
EAT, SLEEP, AND BE MERRY
Okay, being merry isn’t a requirement, but it’s on-theme so I had to include it. There is a lot of cultural messaging around the way we feed ourselves and rest. Especially around this time of year. While we might associate gathering together around a table full of food with connection and joy, there are seedy underbelly messages that can sneak in and fill our plates with nothin’ but shame. Your health is yours and only you get to decide what is or isn’t good for you.
When you’re hungry, feed yourself. If you’re tired, rest. Sometimes, when I think of self-care and feel a bit lost in the #selfcare movement of social media, I imagine myself as a newborn baby. When we were infants, we needed plenty of food, lots of rest, safety and security of a parent, and lots and lots of play.
Nothing’s changed just because we’re grown-ups. We still need all of those things every single day. The biggest difference is who is in charge of providing that for us (hint: we are). Yes, self-care can absolutely be face masks, yoga classes, or buying a new pair of shoes. However, I’m not sure going to a yoga class after sleeping less than 3 hours a night for four nights in a row is the right idea. What do you need? What messaging do you need to work through to take shame out of the equation?
SOCIAL MEDIA HYGIENE
Now, I am very pro-social media. I think it is an incredible tool for connection and growth. However, like with literally everything else human-made, there’s a really delicate balance between what is helpful and what isn’t. Pay attention to how you’re engaging with social media. If you’re following people whose content consistently makes you feel like shit about yourself, unfollow them! In a world where people are literally paid to influence us, we have the power over who we let in.
Who do you want to influence you? What messages are helpful for you? What messages aren’t? Knowing that I get triggered when following people who only post about their latest diet means that I can graciously opt-out of those narratives. I can also find people who are engaging with the content in a way that I find inspirational and really helpful. Social media hygiene is all about beefing up our discernment skills and trusting ourselves to know what’s best for our lives right now. If all you end up doing is comparing yourself to the highlight reels of old high school friends and feeling like a loser. That’s the pits. Afraid a family member’s feelings might get hurt from an unfollow? Most social media timelines have the option to hide someone’s content without actually unfollowing them.
FEEL YOUR FEELS
The holiday season can bring up a whole boatload of feelings for us. While the escape routes abound in the holiday season, graciously allowing ourselves to feel what we’re feeling, even when it doesn’t necessarily feel “good,” means that we’re far less likely to get stuck there. Give yourself the gift of being honest with yourself.
SELF-CARE: THE TAKEAWAY
Dr. Charles Schaefer writes, “One great way to start embracing the present moment is by taking a few minutes to find one thing you feel good about right now, and then lingering on that thought for as long as you can. When you stop trying to make your holiday fit an ideal, you open up space to savor the holiday as it is.”
Remember that all we have, really, is the present moment. We get to walk into the holiday season with as much gusto as we want to. The ways in which we take care of ourselves are really important parts of the equation. It’s easy to get swept up in the cultural zeitgeist of it all and lose sight of what self-care actually is. Be it splurging on a new winter coat, going for a walk with loved ones, lovingly enforcing a set boundary, or finally getting to the end of that honey-do list, self-care is everything we do to take care of ourselves. The only formula we need is the one we decide on. What plus what equals the happiest, most content and confident version of me? That’s the spirit of self-care we’re really after here.
As usual, the therapists at Relationship Insights are here to help you navigate through the cultural messaging of shame and blame that can come up around the topic of self-care and the holiday season. We are specially trained to hold space, help you determine what it is you really need, and help you build the relationships and life you really want.
Email us today!
MONTHLY RELATIONSHIP WORKSHOP – DEC 1, 1PM-2:30PM
YAY! The Holiday Survival Series is going IRL! Join us for our very first Monthly Relationship Workshop with Marriage and Family Therapy Intern and self-care super-fan, Lindsay Strong, on Sunday, December 1 from 1pm-2:30pm.
Let the Self-Caring begin 🥳