Is the holiday season leaving you a little run down? The holidays may bring good times, but the number of obligations may leave us feeling overwhelmed. The parties, the decorating, the gifts to buy, religious traditions, and family celebrations quickly fill up our calendars. And don’t even mention the financial stress related to all these festivities! And for some, the holidays are reminders of loved ones we’ve lost and can’t celebrate with. The loss of loved ones can leave us feeling like the holidays will never be the same.
I hope your holidays are filled with joy, magic, and bright hope. But just in case you’re struggling this holiday season, here are a few ideas for how to take good care of yourself.
Set a budget… We all have different seasons to our financial lives. Maybe this season is one where you don’t have extra money to spend on gifts. Don’t allow material things to steal your joy at this time of year. Consider gifting cards with a favorite photo of you and the recipient. Adding a meaningful handwritten note to the card is a gift that will last long beyond some mass-produced trinket that gathers dust. Take an honest look at your financial situation and decide how much you will spend in total before you ever enter a store. Shopping with a preplanned budget will keep you from having post-holiday debt and regret. Also, consider shopping with cash so you’re not tempted to spend more on your credit card. The convenience of credit cards can make it too easy to overspend.
Be mindful… There are countless ways to practice mindfulness. Some people love meditation and yoga. Some folks just love the serenity of being in nature. If you’re a person of faith, lean upon your beliefs to ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes being mindful just requires slowing down to hear yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Connect with what makes you grateful and feeling centered.
Take it easy on yourself… Feelings are not right or wrong. Feelings just are. No matter what you are feeling this holiday season, give yourself permission to be okay with it. You cannot care for others well if you have no emotional energy. Some ideas to care for yourself include exercise or a quiet night watching movies at home. It is odd to me that we create so much stress and bustle in a season where we constantly wish peace for the world. Give yourself the gift of peace and simplicity this year.
Talk to someone… Trusted friends and family can be great sources of comfort and support. Sometimes we just need a friend to listen without offering solutions. But sometimes you need a more objective person who can listen, be supportive, and not make you feel like you’re letting others down. Counselors are a great resource for help. Today, there are many options for online therapy that allow you to talk to a licensed therapist in the comfort of your own environment. You may find this to be a great resource if you’re feeling isolated at the holidays. These virtual sessions are becoming more accessible and more affordable.
Flock together… You know the old saying about birds of a feather? That’s sound advice. What kind of feathers do you have? Find a group of people with those feathers (experiencing what you are). If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a grief support group can surround you with empathy and genuine love. Don’t be afraid to seek the company of people in similar situations. Sympathy is easy to find whereas empathy requires that others can authentically feel your pain. Support groups are about empathy at their core.
Know when to say “no”… It is absolutely okay to say no to activities that you’re not feeling up to. An activity that creates dread in you is just an energy vampire. You won’t gain joy from it and the people you’re with will feel that you’re not invested. When we say “yes” to an invitation, it should bring us joy. Write all your invitations to gatherings and events on a paper calendar. This will give you a visual map of how much time you’ll be committing to the available activities. From this, create a plan of what is most important and decide what you will attend. There is no possible way to please everyone in our lives. Trying just leads to our own frustration and exhaustion. Family and friends may not understand your decision to skip some events. It’s okay if they don’t. Again, your mental and physical health are primary.
You don’t have to explain yourself… No one values your wellness like you do. Simply saying, “I’m not up to being there this year” or “Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t make it” is enough. You should only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Your story belongs only to you. Those who care about you will support your decisions. They may miss you, but they won’t hold it against you if they truly care about you.
Remember challenges you’ve overcome… When I encounter a particularly difficult season in my life, I try to think back on other seasons that I’ve come through. I try to draw upon how I have made it to the present point in my life successfully. It reminds me that experience indicates a high likelihood that this challenging time will pass too. Journaling is a great way to reflect on this. Try jotting down some hard times in your life and making notes of what led you through them. These notes can become a catalog for you to look back upon when hard times occur in the future. I personally carry a small pocket notebook for this purpose. It has become a fun tradition for me to fill up these pocket notebooks with thoughts and feelings. I put these treasured notebooks in a special box once the pages are filled with my musings.
I hope these tips help in some small way as you go about your professional lives caring for others. Happy holidays to all of you this December. My prayer is that each of you experiences something wonderful in your life. Please take good care of yourself so you can start the new year with passion and purpose!