I am blessed to work with some of the most kind and caring people in therapy. People who love and support their families. Who are amazingly loyal friends and generous, even to strangers. The people I work with know how to show love. So much in fact that often they become so busy caring for others that they lose sight of their own self-care.
The holidays can be a fun and joyous time of year for many people. But for many the holidays may bring stress, sadness, memories of lost loved ones, loneliness, or reminders of a past trauma. And people that are very caring of others often find themselves drained during the holidays.
Often, these caring people do not feel that they are able to take time to care for themselves. It feels selfish. Or they’re not sure how to focus on themselves after so many years of putting others first. They are mothers, fathers, doctors, veterans, teachers, volunteers, nurses, good neighbors. The part of humanity that are giving, generous, loving people probably includes you – especially if you find yourself caring for others so often that you struggle to find time for yourself.
Think back to the last time you were on an airplane. Before takeoff, the pilot goes over safety guidelines. I was surprised on my first flight in middle school that if the airbags were released, my first priority was to put MY air mask on first. This sounds so selfish! Yet if I neglect myself in order to help others with their air masks, I would quickly pass out and be completely useless in helping those around me. If you want to help others, you have to help yourself first.
Ok, so self-care is important. But how do I get self-care during this giving time of year?
Allow yourself to set boundaries
As mentioned in DISAPPOINTING HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS?, there is a lot to keep up with during the holidays. Christmas shopping, decorating, cooking and baking, ice skating, holiday parties, trying not to break your diet, shoveling snow, gift wrapping. The list goes on. It can be a lot of fun! And sometimes it can be overwhelming.
Allow yourself to say “No” to those activities you really aren’t interested in. It’s OK to spend less on gifts rather than breaking the bank. It’s OK to skip one or two Christmas parties. It’s OK not to wear an ugly sweater to the company potluck. Allowing yourself to set boundaries on how involved you want to be during this season can make the holiday much easier to tackle.
Treat your body as a priority
It is very difficult to experience peace if your body does not feel whole or well. The 3 pillars of your physical health are: Sleep, Nutrition, and Movement.
Sleep is critical to our health – even though scientists don’t know why exactly we need it. Try to get between 7-8 hours of sleep a night (7.5 hours is the best). Make a bedtime routine that you keep consistently – this makes it easier for your body to fall asleep. And if you wake up throughout the night, don’t fight with sleep. Get up and do something boring (like reading a book you hate) to wear your eyes back out. Then only go back to bed when you feel truly ready to sleep.
Getting good and needed food is crucial for our health. Eat 3 meals a day with small snacks in between. Instead of avoiding “bad” foods during the Christmas season (almost impossible to do!), try instead to simply add in good foods. Try eating the “good” foods first in each meal so you gets the nutrients, and eat the bad foods second. Over time, your body will start to crave the healthy food and it will be easier to quit the “bad” foods.
And finally – movement! Notice I did not say the dreaded “E” word. Exercise is incredibly healthy for our bodies. But if the thought of doing 30 minutes of exercise a day makes you feel sick, then don’t start there! Just start by incorporating more movement throughout your day. Get up for short walks every hour at work. Park a little farther back in the parking lot. Try stretching just to the point you feel a pull (but no pain). All these are great ways to start helping your body to feel better.
Get some “Me Time”
As an introvert, getting enough “Me time” is crucial to handling life’s stresses. And even extroverts need some time to themselves every now and then. During your “Me Time,” do whatever makes you feel calm and relaxed. This can be a bubble bath, reading, going for a walk, listening to music. During my “Me Time,” I even just get some cleaning done while I sing and dance to my favorite tunes! It doesn’t have to be extravagant to be effective. Just do whatever feels refreshing!
Remember, during the holidays it’s OK not to “feel the mood” of the season. Taking care of yourself is vital during this time of year, so help yourself out and do some good self-care! Share this post for others who may need permission for guilt-free self-care. And if you’re interested in starting some professional counseling, email me or sign up for services here!