These last few weeks have been a difficult beginning into the holiday season. In my community this year, though, there has been a lot of grief, loss, stress, and overwhelm. First there was the Borderline Bar shooting on 11/8/18 where 12 innocent people lost their lives. Then that same night the fires (Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire) began to rage out of control. By the next day people were being evacuated from their home. They frantically tried to make sure loved ones were safe, while at the same time others were grieving because they lost someone dear to them in the shooting. A good majority of people in my community were packing their belongings, not knowing if they would have a house to return to, and sadly, many did not. Thankfully, our house did not burn down, although we are still displaced due to extensive smoke damage. I have found that what is getting me through these difficult times is self-care and gratitude.
Last year I wrote a post on self-care during the holidays. I will repost that below this. These tips are good all year around, although especially during the stress of the holiday season. So, during this time of the holiday season, please take the time to not only have good self-care, but please remember those who have lost so much. Try to find that balance for yourself. One of the tips I talk about is when you give it not only makes the person receiving your giving feel good, it makes you feel good. There are so many ways to give without it having to cost you anything. Expressing gratitude benefits you and others, and is a great way to live your life to its fullest.
There are many sayings about gratitude. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “Feeling gratitude is like wrapping a present and not giving it” – William Arthur Ward
- “If you want to find happiness, find gratitude” – Steve Maraboli
- “Gratitude turns what we have into enough” – Melody Beattie
- “Start each day with a grateful heart”- Annonymous
Self-Care During the Holidays
For some the holidays are a time of togetherness, family, and friends. For others, it is a time of isolation, loneliness, and a reminder that they don’t have a support system. Janet is a 27-year-old single woman and has many friends and a close-knit family. Thomas is a 30-year-old male whose family is in another state, and he is not very close with them. He doesn’t have a lot of friends since he moved to a new city, and finds it difficult to meet new people. Here are two people, relatively the same age, and although their lives are so different, they may experience some of the same feelings during the holiday times.
So, what do you do when you are Thomas, and have nowhere to go, and a sense of not belonging? And what about Janet, who although she has support, feels overwhelmed with too many obligations creating a different kind of stress. And another factor both of these people might have in common is that finances may be a concern. Here are ten things you can do during the holidays to help with stress, loneliness, or feeling overwhelmed.
10 Tips for Self-Care During The Holidays
- Make a schedule of the different obligations, parties, and events that you have
If you schedule your time out, you will less likely feel overwhelmed because there is less of a chance of forgetting that you might have conflicting obligations
- Set limits and boundaries for yourself
Set a limit for yourself as to what you will do in advance so you will feel more prepared with the events that you do go to, and less pressure to those that you have declined
- Make sure to get some “me time” in for yourself
Make an appointment for a manicure or pedicure
Take some time to get a cup of coffee and relax, instead of grabbing a coffee on the run
Take a drive to the beach or a park and spend an hour enjoying the quiet
Relax in a warm bubble bath with candles lit, and soft relaxing music
Although this is another thing on your schedule for those with a support system, it brings a sense of joy and gratitude when you can be of help to others
For those with no support during the holidays, you get the same sense of joy and gratitude, but also get the benefit of interacting with others and are appreciated at the same time. It gives these individuals the sense of belonging they may yearn for
- Budget what you can afford for gifts or any extras during the holidays
This will also help decrease some of your stress when you know ahead of time what you can afford, and how much to allot where
- Keep as close to your regular diet, schedule and routine as possible
Try to plan ahead when going to parties. If you have a party 4 nights a week, and are eating rich foods, you may not only not feel good physically, but your energy level will also decrease.
- Try to make sure you’re getting enough sleep
When you’re not sleeping as well, your resistance to getting sick increases
You also have less tolerance for things when you are tired
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and your family members
Sometimes it’s not possible for all your family to be together at the same time
Maybe do a gift exchange in advance and mail the presents to where the individual you picked will be. That way everyone still has some connection to family, and can participate in some way
This also helps with your budget, as you are only buying for one person and not everyone in the family.
For some this may mean a 15-minute walk, yoga, running, or taking an exercise class
According to The Mayo Clinic, exercise has physiological benefits that help reduce depression, and in addition it takes your mind off worries, and increases healthy coping, as well as often times increases social interactions
- Mindfulness or Meditation
Whatever you call it, or however you choose to quiet your mind, mindfulness is a way to decrease stress and create a sense of calm within
Lastly, Seek out support
Whether that be a friend, therapy, a support group, or calling a hotline, it is important to know that there is support, even when you are feeling isolated, alone, or overwhelmed.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 24/7 and is a great place to get support (800-273-8255). And, Crisis Text Line is another great resource TEXT 741741 and Type “Hello” in Subject Line.
If you are feeling in need of support during the holidays, feel free to contact me and schedule and appointment. Although the holidays are publicized as a cheerful and joyous time, many people need some extra support during these months.
Norine Vander Hooven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been in practice for 30 years. Norine views the decision to enter therapy as displaying strength and courage. She specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, women’s issues, and life transitions. Norine is also EMDR trained and uses this to work with people with PTSD and severe anxiety. Norine works with adolescents, adults, and families.
Originally published on PsychCentral