The holidays are closing in on us, and while for some people that means a time of laughter, cheer, presents, and parties. But for some of us the holidays bring a lot of complicated and hard to handle emotions.
With such strong focus on family and celebration, those who have complicated relationships can feel a little forgotten, a little embarrassed, or a little lonely this time of year.
You might have lost someone important to you. You might have a difficult relationship with your family. You might be struggling to pay for all of the expenses that come with the holiday season. You may have difficulty managing anxiety during all the different social obligations of the season. And on top of the holidays, winter can be an especially difficult time for anyone struggling with grief and depression.
While the season is typically centered around giving to others, expressing your love and gratitude for the loved ones in your life, etc. it’s also important to make sure you leave some space to take care of yourself this season.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of self-care practices for the holiday season for you to try out:
Take a period of social media “hibernation” for the holidays:
It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game at any time of year, but especially around the holidays. And social media only adds fuel to the fire. Consider deleting apps like twitter, instagram, facebook, etc. off of your phone until after the new year. When you give yourself space away from everyone else’s holiday posts, you’re able to exist within your own experience without the temptation to compare how you’re celebrating to how someone else is celebrating. And if your holiday doesn’t look perfectly instagrammable, you’re much less likely to feel shame about it if you aren’t consuming everyone else’s holiday posts.
It can also help to remind you that just because something looks magical and wonderful in an instagram post, doesn’t mean it’s actually like that. Use the holiday season as an excuse to step away from the urge to make your life pretty & presentable. Just focus on enjoying the season however it looks to you.
Give yourself permission to say no:
You don’t have to go to your coworker’s roommate’s potluck Christmas party–they will understand. Invitations are given out generously this season, and it can feel overwhelming when you start trying to figure out how you’re going to make it all work. But the secret is: you don’t actually have to.
Reserve some space in your calendar and some social energy for the people who are most important to you. But you don’t need to feel obligated to make every holiday celebration you get invited to a priority. Express appreciation at the invite, tell them you’re glad they thought of you, but, unfortunately, you just don’t have time. If you feel guilty about turning down and invitation, offer to make plans for when things are less busy after the holidays instead.
Keep a holiday journal:
Lots of complicated feelings come up at the holidays! Don’t keep them all in. Take some time to release them through a journaling practice–without shame. Whether you’re resentful, stressed, sad, embarrassed, whatever it is that feels “wrong” this holiday season, explore it instead of shutting it down. Honor the feelings you have and give yourself space to feel them without the pressure of pretending to be holly jolly all season long.
Make a budget + stick to it:
You want to buy the perfect presents for everyone in your life. But, unfortunately, that just might not be realistic. The importance of a present is the gesture. Your loved ones will understand if you can’t afford to drop a lot of money on everyone this year! Give yourself a clear budget on how much you can afford to spend this holiday season. Divide that number up by how many presents you have to buy, and stick to that. If you can’t afford to buy any presents, suggest spending a day together with those you wish you could buy for.
Start a new tradition:
Decide what is important to you this holiday season. Is there something you wish was included in your holiday? Just because it’s not something you or your family or your friends do every year, doesn’t mean you can’t start your own tradition. Pick one thing you want to do, and prioritize it!
Let go of expectations for the holidays:
The holidays are just regular days. We still have to go to work, we still have to buy our groceries, we still have to take the garbage out, etc. While they have some fun special elements that the rest of the year might not have, it’s still important to remember that this isn’t a movie. Not every moment is going to be picture perfect. The holidays might just be a few awkward family parties and a potluck with friends. Give yourself & your loved ones a break if it doesn’t seem like the best part of the year. When you let go of high expectations you will be able to actually enjoy the fun moments. And you won’t feel as stressed over the less-than-fun ones!
If you’re struggling this holiday season, please contact our licensed therapists at the Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX for help today.