As much as I love the holidays, if I’m completely honest, they also bring pangs of anxiety. Not only are you forced to spend time with family members you're not exactly fond off, or stuck in traffic or an airport somewhere you may or may not be interested in going, this past holiday season was particularly difficult for my family. On December 16, 2017 my step dad died. Even though he was sick and I had seen the warning signs that he would not make it to the New Year, it still felt like I had the rug pulled from under my feet. So to say that this holiday season was chaotic is a HUGE understatement. Family dynamics got crazier and we spent time we should have spent rejoicing and decorating, planning a funeral. It's enough to cause the deepest depression spell but I got through it all smiling and laughing. Which may leave you wondering:
How can practice self-care during the holidays or other chaotic times of the year?
Check In Mentally & Physically
This requires you to be aware of your triggers and methods for recovery. Take particular note if your mood always drops after talking with a specific friend, or if you have anxiety around a specific task. On the flip side, don’t forget to do a scan of the positive things as well. Like if you feel a little extra warm and fuzzy after watching movies with your family. The more awareness you can bring to the things that both deplete you and fill you with joy, the more you can do these next steps effectively.
Setting Boundaries With People
I love my family but sometimes something as simple as calling me the wrong name ticks me off. Setting boundaries is going to look different depending on the person and situation. As an introvert, being around large groups of people for long periods of time can feel like my worst nightmare. There have been times I simply chose not to go to family events just to avoid the noise.
I was particularly inspired to work on this when the night before my step dad's funeral I had to sneak away to my bedroom just to be alone and work in silence. I still wanted the TV on (on something I actually enjoyed watching) but I couldn't take the back and forth conversation of my mum, grandmother and uncle over the noise of the TV while I was trying to work. I already had a brunch with my best friend's earlier that day so I had pretty much met my social quota for the day and just couldn't do it any more.
After dealing with my anxiety for over a decade my mum knows when to not take things personally but still checks me when she feels I'm getting worked up and taking it out on her. Make sure the people closest to you understand your triggers and respect your boundaries that you have in place or any effort you make in self-care can result in offended family members or friends.
Respect Your Budget
This is the time of the year where it is easy to over-indulge. For those of us who only get paid once a month, you know that after that early pay day in December, it's a LONG way to January. Once you figure out what you can spend on extras like holiday gifts, events, and other holiday things, honour that. If you splurge now, you pay even more later. And later comes sooner than you think. The list of things that seem to trap us in extravagance may differ from person to person, however, it is common to be swept up into excessive behavior. Aristotle wisely stated, “all things in moderation.”
Forgiveness isn't something that's one and done. Forgiveness happens again and again, often for the same offence. Because no one is perfect, someone will always do something you don't like. It takes a strong person to forgive someone, no matter what they've done or how long ago it happened. It’s not too late. Your forgiveness will not only heal their hearts, it will heal yours. Forgiveness simply means, I value myself (or our relationship) more than being right. Who do you need to forgive? Maybe you owe yourself some forgiveness. P.S. You don’t need an apology to forgive someone.
Give up expectations
I expected my step dad to die before the New Year but. no matter how sure of this I was, I still wasn't prepared when it happened. The holidays, particularly Christmas, can set us up for unrealistic expectations. It's supposed to be a “magical” time of year as we dream of the perfect holiday. Past experiences, the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job or financial difficulty all seems to heighten during this time of year. One of the best ways to take care of yourself during this emotionally trying time, is to give up your expectations of the perfect family with the perfect tree while hosting the perfect parties with the perfect gifts. This type of thinking is extremely damaging to you. As you relinquish these ideas, you are able to open yourself up to experiencing greater joy in the reality of the moment. Let go of false illusions and celebrate the moment.
Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of the season
Plan ahead and designate specific time frames for the tasks that you need to complete or the functions that you will attend. This will give you time for mental preparation, allowing you to not be overwhelmed. The malls and stores are extremely active at certain times of the day and week. If possible, plan your shopping time during quieter hours, such as weekday mornings. Shop online in the privacy of your home to avoid crowds all together. When you do plan to be out in the crowds, calm your mind and body before going. Realise that you don’t have to rush. Take your time and enjoy the shopping process. Often times, by changing our perspective of the situation, we can approach things with calmness. We do not need to become part of the holiday frenzy. Create a sense of peace and joy, true holiday feelings, inside your mind and spirit.