Friday, December 4, 2015

Self-Care During the Holiday Season

This blog was originally posted on SimonTeen’s PULSE IT site, but it is an important reminder for all of us in winter so I’m reposting here for all my Pub Hub friends:

For me, the holidays have always been sort of a bittersweet time of year. My kids love the Christmas music and our church pageant and all the presents, but I generally find myself a little frazzled and sort of down during this season. Part of the reason is that I lost two very good friends to mental illness at Christmas time, and every year I find myself thinking about them and the other people out there struggling.

So, in the interest of spreading a little joy at a time of year that some people find hard, I thought I would offer up a few tips for self-care and de-stressing during the holidays. I’ve worked in the anti-rape movement for almost twenty years now and self-care is a critical component in being able to effectively help others. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask during a flight before helping those around you. So make sure to take time out for yourself as much as you can, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.

Self-care/de-stressing tips during the holiday:

1.     Unplug early every night. It’s dark earlier. Winter is the season of hibernation, the season of dormancy. Let yourself hibernate a little. Go to bed earlier. Stay curled up in your blankets a few extra minutes in the morning. It’s okay. You can catch up on the new season of Empire in the spring.
2.     Make a deal with your friends/family not to move money around. My family and friend network is quite large. A few years ago I realized we’d all gotten to the point of just getting each other gift cards. My stepbrother Rob called this “moving money around”. And he was right. What was the point? So we just stopped. We gave each other the gift of not having to give anything and not having to write thank you notes. We also (indirectly) gave each other the gift of more time. Now, I make a big meal for everyone and that’s my gift to them. It is one long day of cooking and cleaning and celebrating, instead of weeks and weeks of stressing about getting the right thing.
3.     Exercise. This is hard. I know it’s hard. Go outside for a walk. Or do a few yoga poses. Or dance around your kitchen to three songs in a row. You need the endorphins. Your vitamin D is way low during the winter if you live in a place like New York or Chicago. Thirty minutes of walking a day (even if it’s twice for 15 minutes) can be a game changer.
4.     Forgive yourself and others. The holiday season stresses lots of people out. Make a choice not to be one of those people. Set your expectations of yourself low. Do the best you can. Acknowledge that others are doing the best they can.
5.     Don’t spend money you don’t have. No one you give a gift to would ever want to know that you incurred a bunch of credit card debt to do so. I promise. They love you whether you show up with a gift or not. Homemade cards go a long way.
6.     Say no. I have a coffee mug that says, “Stop me if I volunteer again.” This is a mantra I have to really work on during the holidays. I have enough on my plate. If my kids’ school can’t find someone to run the holiday brunch, then they should not have one.
7.     Let go of guilt. Guilt can consume us and make us sick. When you shack up with guilt, you are removing space inside yourself for other more positive things. If you start to feel guilty about something, remind yourself that people like you more when you are happy, and guilt keeps you unhappy. I used to hate when someone gave me a better (read: more expensive) present than I gave them. I felt horrible about it. But then I realized that this wasn’t doing either of us any good. So I let go of it and we eventually figured it out to cut it out with the gifts all together.
8.     Talk to your best friend at least every other day. I usually do this anyway, but it’s doubly important for me during the holiday season because I usually retreat when I’m feeling down. Talking to my best friends make me feel better. They make me laugh at myself and can generally get me out of my head long enough to realize that it’s really all going to be okay.
9.     Read books. This one goes without saying. Books make you a better person. I’m convinced of it. If you’re struggling, chances are you can find a fictional character to struggle with. And maybe you won’t feel so alone.
10. Eat chocolate. Well, it certainly helps me! :)

Happy Holidays, babies. 

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