Self-Care During the Holidays

Hey all. It’s been a couple days since I’ve written. The last post was the conclusion of our investigation into whether psychology is a science. We conceded, I think, on the view that it has scientific potential but isn’t quite there yet.

I had another post prepared for today, but in light of the coming Holidays, I’ve foregone my usually cynical direction and decided to engage in some positivity today.

I’m not sure how it is for you all, but for me Holidays are difficult. I didn’t know they were difficult until I realized my moods seemed to fluctuate more viciously during this time. I also realized I’ve been taken into the hospital in October/November three years in a row and last year stayed at the respite house which I work for.

And so, to celebrate the second year of not going into the hospital, I figured I’d share some ways to engage in self-care during these busy times.

Disengage When Necessary

I think what adds to the stress is this weird social pressure that comes along with being in relationships, friendships, or just apart of a family. There are parties, gatherings, The Spawn of Satan Activity a.k.a Secret Santa at work. You’re seen as weird if you don’t go, and if you’re awkward like me, weird when you do go.

Sometimes family is the exact opposite of who you need to be around. And if you have the ability to stay away, if that is what’s best for your health, than by all means stay away. If you must go, keep in mind it’s just for the holidays. Enjoy those who you are comfortable around and remember those who seem malicious toward you may have other things going on in their lives. The holidays are stressful for everyone, not just you. They might not want to be there either.

If you have a significant other who insists you pretend to want to be there, make sure that you take care of yourself while you are there. If there is too much conversation, politely excuse yourself; go for a walk maybe, or find an area with less people. Bring some music if that’s soothing to you and separate from the madness so you can gather yourself. Nothing is more important than your mental health, and if someone doesn’t understand that than you probably shouldn’t be going to parties with them.

Treat Yourself, But be Careful of Indulgence

Black Friday in particular can trigger me into spending way more money than I should. I’ve avoided spending thousands, but I think I spent a good couple hundred and it isn’t even Cyber Monday yet.

I also notice as the weather’s gotten colder (and as I’m still unsure of my back’s abilities) I haven’t been going to the gym and I haven’t been eating correctly, not with Thanksgiving and sweets and potatoes and other such delicious things being just an arm stretch away. In combination with the stress of the holidays, finals, and ridding my body of those pain meds, I can feel a shift in my mood. I’m fluctuating a lot between depression and euphoria and there’s some intense paranoia that intensifies and lessens.

And so as delicious as the food is, I need to remember to watch my sugar intake and carbohydrate intake. I need to get back into my gym routine, rain or shine, and keep away from anymore medications. My presentation this week is already torturing my anxiety enough, I don’t need any other weight.

And neither do you. If you feel yourself taking some cheat nibbles here and there, don’t spend hours hating yourself. If you spend or party or whatever, push against that guilt. It’s okay to enjoy the little things in life. When it starts affecting your body and your mental well-being, maybe then it’s time to take a look at how it could be affecting you and whether you need to adjust things.

Remind Yourself You’re Doing Enough

We often forget, in the bustle of the season, that we are doing all we can. And so we try and do more and that’s where the breakdowns come from. Maybe work picks up during this time and people go on vacation and you’re covering shifts you don’t normally do. It’s okay to make a little extra money, but be mindful of your mentality. Are you more angry than usual? More depressed? Anxious? Paranoia? Frustrated? If so, scaling away from work could do some good; your employer isn’t going to die without you. Their job is to keep their business running. Your job is to keep yourself running.

If you aren’t working right now, sometimes it can feel like you can’t contribute as much as everyone else because of income restraints or other inconveniences. Remember that whatever you can do, regardless of gossip, regardless of your own anxiety, is fantastic and someone in someway will appreciate it. Even if that someone is just you. You being appreciative of yourself is powerful.

If you’re a busy family and you’re running around throwing gatherings and planning trips or other ways to organize the kid’s winter break, remember to breathe. You can’t do everything all the time, and next year does exist. Time is something we may not always have, but we do happen to have a lot of it.

Take Some Time To Assess Why

What is it about the holidays that stress you out the most? Is it the anxiety in the air? The crazy drivers? Is there trauma around these days? The gift-giving insecurity? Work?

For me, holidays were always filled with arguments, violence, and drunken rages. When my dad still played music, he was gone every holiday at gigs so I missed him. But when he came home, there was always a lot of arguing and fights because he was drunk and/or high and got angry at little things that would have made no difference otherwise. When he stopped playing music, he was drinking at 9am and I usually woke up to things breaking and more arguing. So, no one would talk to each other for the duration of the holiday. It’s been a full three years since that has happened. So I’m just not getting used to this idea of “being together” on the holidays.

I notice that a lot of those experiences have shaped my perspective of the holidays. I turn away from parties and gatherings and family things because it’s not what I’m used to. I’m used to doing my own thing by myself.

So for me, it’s been trauma. The memories of the stress are still in my body. My body knows when November is here even if I don’t know it is. Because this is the beginning of it all. And so this year I’m remembering that my past hurt but that it’s not like that anymore. That I can embrace celebration and enjoy the time that I have with my dad sober, even though his health is in a decline and his short-term memory is deeply bruised. We can have a new tradition and that won’t be possible if we all resist it.

The point of identifying the source of your holiday stress is so that you may put your attention there, not to wallow in it but to nurture it and coddle it and respect its existence. Doing so lets you see the gap between what may have happened last year or as far back into your childhood, versus what this year could be. It reminds you to mold your perspective a bit. If it’s the crazy driving, try and identify times where drivers aren’t so crazy. If it’s parties, maybe choose a few not to go to. If it’s gift-giving, maybe investigate those you wish to give gifts more than you usually would, or opt to remember gift receipts; if this is a route you choose, and the person returns the item, resist the urge to blame yourself. If this is a regular pattern of there’s, maybe a gift card is best.

But most importantly everyone, identify what makes you happiest during these stressful times and embrace that. Take care of you. Tis the season of giving, so give yourself a little love.

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