The holidays can be a wonderful time of year for many but it can also be a time of sadness, grief and overwhelm. Traditionally, the holidays are a time to spend with family and loved ones. But, keep in mind we don’t all come from traditional families and not everyone has a family who understands and accepts who they are. This year especially, the holidays will look different for many as some of us decide to avoid traveling and large gatherings.
For those of us that are close with our families, I’m sure we can also empathize with those times where we’ve had our differences and where there might be strain and anxiety even with those that we love dearly. And for anyone who has lost someone close to them, the holidays are a time where we think fondly of those we miss and wish for them to be with us again. Additionally, for those that experience a mental illness or any mental health challenges, the holidays can surely be a time of overwhelm and anxiety inducing. This is a guide for everyone to remind you that no matter how you celebrate the holidays this season, remember to make time for yourself every day.
- Create a plan or schedule
Do you have to buy presents, plan the holiday meals, bake cookies, decorate, etc.? As with any project, create a timeline of when and how you will get everything done. This not only ensures that you won’t forget to do something but it also allows you to focus on the list in front of you and not the list swirling around in your head. Make sure to share this list with others and divvy up the responsibilities. Maybe make others the lead of some tasks so you don’t have to lead everything.
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- Decide what you will and won’t discuss with others
Brené Brown says “We share with people who’ve earned the right to hear our story.” You get to choose who you want to tell and share your story with. Don’t feel obligated to share everything, only share what you want to share with others. If they pressure you, you can say something like: “I don’t want to share this, please respect my privacy and choice.”
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- Reflect on what the holiday season means to you
Whether you have an identified spiritual practice or not, the holidays have some sort of meaning for all of us and we can surely identify happy and sad emotions with the season. Think about this year and what you want to focus on as you move through the holiday season. Decide how you will celebrate and remember this year. We have less than a month left of this very challenging year, ask yourself ‘what emotions do I want to feel and what experiences do I want to have?’
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- Identify your own needs
We all have daily basic needs as well as other unique needs that help us thrive and feel secure and happy. What do you need to feel secure and happy and to thrive this holiday season? Whatever it is, write it down and remind yourself of those needs every day. If you need to share them with others, do that too!
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- Give yourself what you need
After you have identified what you need to thrive, feel satisfied, secure and happy, — Give that to yourself every day.
We can’t get through each day without adequate rest, food, water and shelter. These basic needs many of us take for granted but we also forget to give them to ourselves quite often. Slow down and notice what you’re eating and drinking, take in your surroundings and ground yourself to the present. The holidays will be over before we know it, so identify what you need and make sure to give it to yourself every day. It’s not selfish but essential!!
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- Create an escape plan
Knowing your boundaries and understanding what is and is not acceptable will help you voice your needs and maintain your own balance. What will you do if you are pushed to your tipping point? How will you know when you’ve reached this point? Create a plan that includes how you might know when you get to this point and who you will call for help and support. And lastly, how you will recuperate and restore yourself.
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- Practice kindness and gratitude
Whether it’s giving it to yourself every day and/or to others. We can all use more kindness and gratitude. Take a deep breath and share what you are most grateful for and spread that kindness forward each day. Consider adding some deep breathing and mindfulness meditation to your days too! Here’s an introductory video to get you started.
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- Find Joy
Challenge yourself to find the joy in each day. Whether that’s a smile, a laugh or even a cry. There is joy to be found everywhere. Sometimes we just have to reframe our vision and sometimes we will find it in unexpected ways.
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The holidays are never easy, but if we take care of ourselves first and then others, it will be much more manageable.
Wishing you a very healthy, safe and joyous holiday season.
Take Care of yourself, Take Care of Each Other, Take Care DePaul